The upper slope of the eastern Tyrrhenian Sea margin has a complex morphology shaped by Quaternary tectonism and by sedimentation phases controlled by changing sea levels. Sediment slides of widely varying size and shape are common in Quaternary deposits of the upper slope, particularly where gradients are steep. Our study of a large sediment failure in lowstand prograded coastal deposits west of Cape Licosa indicates that the nature of shelf-margin deposition is an additional important control on failure. The failure zone has a mobilization surface showing in-situ deformation in the sediment above it; an upper failure surface; a head scarp; and a zone of ponded sediment debris downslope from the exposed surface of failure. The basal mobilization surface is roughly parallel to the seafloor and coincident with a major downlap surface. The failed section is less that 20 m thick and local in extent, but deformation on the basal mobilization surface extends outside the immediate area of the failure. Directly downslope of the slide scarp are internally stratified mounds that show no evidence of deformation or movement. Most of the prograded deposit experienced in-situ deformation that evolved into the collapse of part of the sediment pile above the mobilization surface. A portion of the mobilized sediment flowed a few kilometers basinward and accumulated at the base of a slope-parallel ridge. Sediment failure occurred on the Licosa shelf margin following a major pulse of coastal sedimentation along the lowstand shoreline. On many continental margins, sea-level lowering is thought to be an important cause of failure unconsolidated sediment deposited during previous high-stand conditions. The Licosa slide demonstrates that sea-level fall has another, equally important but indirect, role in sediment failure. As sea level falls and reaches its lowstand position, streams are at their peak efficiency and a coarsening-upward clastic coastal wedge is rapidly emplaced at relatively steep gradients on the shelf margin, and these are conditions that inherently favor sediment instability and failure. ?? 1992.
Additional publication details
Collapse and flow of lowstand shelf-margin deposits: An example from the eastern Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy