Clay mineralogy is useful in determining the distribution, sources, and dispersal routes of fine-grained sediments. In addition, clay minerals, especially smectite, may control the degree to which contaminants are adsorbed by the sediment. We analyzed 250 shelf sediment samples, 24 river-suspended-sediment samples, and 12 river-bed samples for clay-mineral contents in the Southern California Borderland from Point Conception to the Mexico border. In addition, six samples were analyzed from the Palos Verdes Headland in order to characterize the clay minerals contributed to the offshore from that point source. The <2 ??m-size fraction was isolated, Mg-saturated, and glycolated before analysis by X-ray diffraction. Semi-quantitative percentages of smectite, illite, and kaolinite plus chlorite were calculated using peak areas and standard weighting factors. Most fine-grained sediment is supplied to the shelf by rivers during major winter storms, especially during El Nin??o years. The largest sediment fluxes to the region are from the Santa Ynez and Santa Clara Rivers, which drain the Transverse Ranges. The mean clay-mineral suite for the entire shelf sediment data set (26% smectite, 50% illite, 24% kaolinite+chlorite) is closely comparable to that for the mean of all the rivers (31% smectite, 49% illite, 20% kaolinite+chlorite), indicating that the main source of shelf fine-grained sediments is the adjacent rivers. However, regional variations do exist and the shelf is divided into four provinces with characteristic clay-mineral suites. The means of the clay-mineral suites of the two southernmost provinces are within analytical error of the mineral suites of adjacent rivers. The next province to the north includes Santa Monica Bay and has a suite of clay minerals derived from mixing of fine-grained sediments from several sources, both from the north and south. The northernmost province clay-mineral suite matches moderately well that of the adjacent rivers, but does indicate some mixing from sources in adjacent provinces.
Additional publication details
Clay-mineral suites, sources, and inferred dispersal routes: Southern California continental shelf