Character, paleoenvironment, rate of accumulation, and evidence for seismic triggering of Holocene turbidites, Canada Abyssal Plain, Arctic Ocean

Marine Geology
By: , and 



Four box cores and one piston core show that Holocene sedimentation on the southern Canada Abyssal Plain for the last 8010 ± 120 yr has consisted of a continuing rain of pelagic organic and ice-rafted clastic sediment with a net accumulation rate during the late Holocene of ⩽10 mm/1000 yr, and episodically emplaced turbidites 1–5 m thick deposited at intervals of 830 to 3450 yr (average 2000 yr). The average net accumulation rate of the mixed sequence of turbidites and thin pelagite interbeds in the cores is about 1.2 m/1000 yr.

Physiography suggests that the turbidites originated on the Mackenzie Delta or its clinoform, and δ13C values of −27 to −25%. in the turbidites are compatible with a provenance on a delta. Extant displaced neritic and lower slope to basin plain calcareous benthic foraminifers coexist in the turbidite units. Their joint occurence indicates that the turbidites originated on the modern continental shelf and entrained sediment from the slope and rise enroute to their final resting place on the Canada Abyssal Plain. The presence of Middle Pleistocene diatoms in the turbidites suggests, in addition, that the turbidites may have originated in shallow submarine slides beneath the upper slope or outer shelf. Small but consistent differences in organic carbon content and δ13C values between the turbidite units suggest that they did not share an identical provenance, which is at least compatible with an origin in slope failures.

The primary provenance of the ice-rafted component of the pelagic beds was the glaciated terrane of northwestern Canada; and the provenance of the turbidite units was Pleistocene and Holocene sedimentary deposits on the outer continental shelf and upper slope of the Mackenzie Delta. Largely local derivation of the sediment of the Canada Abyssal Plain indicates that sediment accumulation rates in the Arctic Ocean are valid only for regions with similar depositional sources and processes, and that these rates cannot be extrapolated regionally. The location of an elliptical zone of active seismicity over the inferred provenance of the turbidites suggests that they were triggered by large earthquakes.

Distal turbidite sediment accumulation rates were more than two orders of magnitude greater than pelagic sediment accumulation rates on the Canada Abyssal Plain during the last 8000 years. This disparity reconciles the discrepancy between the high accumulation rates assumed by some for the Arctic Ocean because of the numerous major rivers and large ice sheets that discharge into this small mediterranean basin and the low pelagic sedimentation rates that have been reported from the Arctic Ocean.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Character, paleoenvironment, rate of accumulation, and evidence for seismic triggering of Holocene turbidites, Canada Abyssal Plain, Arctic Ocean
Series title Marine Geology
DOI 10.1016/0025-3227(96)00015-1
Volume 133
Issue 1-2
Year Published 1996
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 23 p.
First page 51
Last page 73
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