Space-for-time substitution and the evolution of a submarine canyon-channel system in a passive progradational margin

Aaron Micallef, Marta Ribó, Miquel Canals, Pere Puig, Galderic Lastras, Xavier Tubau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Space-for-time substitution is a concept that has been widely applied, but not thoroughly tested, in some fields of geomorphology. The objective of this study is to test whether the concept of space-for-time substitution is valid in reconstructing the evolution of a submarine canyon–channel system in a passive progradational margin. We use multibeam echosounder data and in situ measurements from the south Ebro Margin to analyse the morphology and morphometry of a sequence of submarine valleys ordered in terms of increasing valley thalweg length. The morphological model of submarine valley evolution that we can propose from this analysis is very similar to established models in the literature, which leads us to conclude that time can be substituted by space when reconstructing the evolution of submarine canyon and channel systems in the south Ebro Margin. By extracting morphometric information from the application of the space-for-time substitution model to our data, we identify a series of morphological patterns as a submarine canyon evolves in a passive progradational margin. These include the geometric similarity of canyon planform shape, an increase in canyon draining efficiency and in the influence of flank slope failures, and an evolution towards equilibrium between canyon form and imposed water and sediment load without net erosion or deposition taking place. We also observe that canyon elongation is higher downslope and that the canyon undergoes an early stage of rapid incision similar to the process of "erosion narrowing" reported in terrestrial rivers. We demonstrate that the conclusions of our study are not limited to submarine valleys in the south Ebro Margin but are applicable to other margins around the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-50
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Space-for-time substitution
  • Submarine canyon
  • Submarine channel
  • Passive margin
  • Submarine geomorphology
  • Ebro Margin
  • Ebro margin


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