The concavity of submarine canyon longitudinal profiles

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Euan Soutter , Ian Kane, David Hodgson, Stephen S. Flint


Submarine canyons incise continental shelves and slopes, and are important conduits for the transport of sediment, nutrients, organic carbon and pollutants from continents to oceans. Submarine canyons bear morphological similarities to subaerial valleys, such as their longitudinal (long) profiles. Long profiles record the interaction between erosion and uplift, making their shape, or concavity, a record of environmental and tectonic processes. The processes that govern concavity of subaerial valleys and rivers are well documented on a global scale, however, the processes that control submarine canyon concavity are less well constrained. We address this problem by utilizing existing geomorphological, tectonic and climatic datasets to measure the long profiles and quantify the concavities of 377 modern submarine canyons. Key results show that: (1) the dominant control on submarine canyon concavity is tectonics, with forearcs and tectonically active margins hosting the least concave-up profiles; (2) present-day canyon position affects canyon concavity, with river-associated canyons being less concave than canyons currently dissociated from rivers on forearcs; (3) present-day onshore climate appears to have a more limited impact on submarine canyon concavity when compared to these factors. While significant local variation exists, these results indicate that tectonic processes are the dominant control on the concavity of submarine canyons on a global scale.



Earth Sciences, Geology, Geomorphology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Sedimentology


Quaternary, Submarine canyons, longitudinal profiles, concavity, tectonics, sea-level, Quaternary, longitudinal profiles


Published: 2021-04-07 07:48

Last Updated: 2021-10-22 09:58

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):
Datasets compiled for this study are available in the supplementary files (Tables S1 and S3) and in an online repository (Tables S1 to S3; Source data is available from Harris and Whiteway (2011) (original submarine canyon data), Nyberg et al. (2018) (geomorphological, tectonic & climatic data), Kottek et al. (2006) (Koppen climate zones), Fick and Hijmans (2017) (precipitation data), Zomer et al. (2008), (aridity index), Giardini et al. (1999) (onshore seismicity), and Amanke and Eakins (2009) (bathymetry).

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