Repeated degradation and progradation of a submarine slope over geological timescales

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Christopher Aiden-Lee Jackson , Andrew McAndrew, David Hodgson, Tom Dreyer


Submarine slopes prograde via accretion of sediment to clinoform foresets, and degrade in response to channel or canyon incision, or mass-wasting processes. The timescales over which progradation and degradation occur, and the large-scale stratigraphic record of these processes, remain unclear due poor age constraints in subsurface-based studies, and areally limited exposures of exhumed systems. We here integrate 3D seismic reflection and borehole data to study the geometry and origin of ancient slope canyons developed within Late Mesozoic strata of the Måløy Slope, offshore Norway. Slope degradation and canyon incision commenced during the late Kimmeridgian, coincident with the latter stages of rifting. Later periods of canyon formation occurred during the Aptian-to-Albian and Albian-to-Cenomanian, during early post-rift subsidence. The canyons are straight, up to 700 m deep and 10 km wide on the upper slope, and die-out downdip onto the lower slope. The canyons trend broadly perpendicular to and crosscut the majority of the rift-related normal faults, although syn-filling fault growth locally helped to preserve thicker canyon-fill successions. The headwalls of the oldest (late Kimmeridgian) canyons are located at a fault-controlled shelf edge, where younger canyons overstep this fault, which was inactive when they formed, extending across the paleo-shelf. Downslope, Aptian-to-Albian canyons either erode into the older, late Kimmeridigian-to-Barremian canyon-fills, forming a complicated set of unconformities, or in the case of the Albian-to-Cenomanian canyons, die-out into correlative conformities. Boreholes indicate that the canyon bases are defined by sharp, erosional surfaces, across which we observe an abrupt upward shift from shallow- to deep-marine facies (i.e. late Kimmeridgian canyons), or deep marine to deep marine facies (Aptian-to-Albian and Albian-to-Cenomanian canyons). Missing biostratigraphic zones indicate the canyons record relatively protracted periods (c. 2-17 Myr) of structurally enhanced slope degradation and sediment bypass, separated by >10 Myr periods of deposition and slope accretion. The trigger for slope degradation is unclear, but it likely reflects basinward tilting of this tectonically active margin, enhanced by incision of the slope by erosive sediment gravity-flows. The results of our study have implications for the timescales over which large-scale slope progradation and degradation may occur on other tectonically active slopes, and the complex geophysical and geological record of these processes. We also demonstrate that canyon formation resulted in an abrupt change in syn-rift facies distributions not predicted by existing marine rift-basin tectono-stratigraphic models.



Earth Sciences, Geology, Other Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Sedimentology, Stratigraphy, Tectonics and Structure


North Sea, northern North Sea, rift tectonics, Submarine canyons, Mesozoic, slope canyons, slope degradation, slope depositional systems, slope processes, slope progradation, submarine slope, syn-rift, Upper Jurassic


Published: 2019-09-30 12:28

Last Updated: 2020-05-01 12:36

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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