Spatio-temporal evolution of sediment waves developed on the Gulf of Valencia margin (NW Mediterranean) during the Plio-Quaternary

Marta Ribo Gene, Pere Puig, Roger Urgeles, David Van Rooij, Araceli Munoz

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Several fields of large-scale sediment waves have been observed along the Gulf of Valencia continental margin (NW Mediterranean). The largest sediment waves develop on the continental slope, extending from 250 to 850 m water depth, with wavelengths ranging between 500 m and 1000 m and wave heights from ~2 m to ~50 m. On the lower part of the slope, sediment waves are quasi-stationary “vertically accreting”, becoming up-slope migrating towards the mid- and upper part of the slope. A second group of sediment waves have developed over the outer continental shelf, with wavelengths of 400 to 800m and heights of 2 to 4m, also displaying an up-slope migrating pattern. Multi channel seismic lines crossing the continental margin show that the sediment waves over the continental slope region have been continuously developed on the foreset region of the prograding margin clinoform. Several units of sediment waves have been identified in the sedimentary record, evolving in accordance with the margin progradation. Detailed analysis of single-channel (sparker) seismic profiles revealed the presence of several sediment depositional subunits over the outer continental shelf, some of them with successive development of sediment waves being truncated by erosive surfaces, likely related to Quaternary eustatic sea-level oscillations. These erosional surfaces can be followed downslope into paraconformable strata of the sediment waves on the continental slope, where constant bedform growth is observed, without being affected by sea level changes. Based on geophysical data, the thickness of the sediment waves mapped
units show that the largest sediment waves (in wave ratio, length and height) develop where sediment deposition rates are the highest, coinciding with the upper part of the continental slope (foreset clinoforms), confined by the presence of structural highs. The development of these sediment waves has been previously explained by the interaction of internal waves over the continental slope. Because sediment waves are preserved in the sedimentary record since the Lower/Pliocene, internal waves activity could have been present in this part of the margin shortly after the Zanclean reflooding of the Mediterranean Basin, following the Messinian desiccation event ~5.6 My ago. Deep water hydrodynamic conditions were re-established at that time, modulating sediment transport and deposition over the continental slope and outer continental shelf.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276 - 291
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Geology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • sediment waves
  • Plio-Quaternary sedimentary record
  • internal waves
  • Gulf of Valencia continental margin
  • NW Mediterranean
  • Sediment waves
  • Internal waves


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