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Surface sediment bulk geochemistry and grain-size composition related to oceanic circulation along the South American continental margin in the Southwest Atlantic

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Thomas Wagner


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Surface sediments from the South American continental margin surrounding the Argentine Basin were studied with respect to bulk geochemistry (CaCO3 and Corg) and grain-size composition (sand/silt/clay relation and terrigenous silt grain-size distribution). The grain-size distributions of the terrigenous silt fraction were unmixed into three end members (EMs), using an end-member modelling algorithm. Three unimodal EMs appear to satisfactorily explain the variations in the data set of the grain-size distributions of terrigenous silt. The EMs are related to sediment supply by rivers, downslope transport, winnowing, dispersal and re-deposition by currents. The bulk geochemical composition was used to trace the distribution of prominent water masses within the vertical profile. The sediments of the eastern South American continental margin are generally divided into a coarse-grained and carbonate-depleted southwestern part, and a finer-grained and carbonate-rich northeastern part. The transition of both environments is located at the position of the Brazil Malvinas Confluence (BMC). The sediments below the confluence mixing zone of the Malvinas and Brazil Currents and its extensions are characterised by high concentrations of organic carbon, low carbonate contents and high proportions of the intermediate grain-size end member. Tracing these properties, the BMC emerges as a distinct north-south striking feature centered at 52- 54°W crossing the continental margin diagonally. Adjacent to this prominent feature in the southwest, the direct detrital sediment discharge of the Rio de la Plata is clearly recognised by a downslope tongue of sand and high proportions of the coarsest EM. A similar coarse grain-size composition extends further south along the continental slope. However, it displays better sorting due to intense winnowing by the vigorous Malvinas Current. Fine-grained sedimentary deposition zones are located at the southwestern deeper part of the Rio Grande Rise and the southern abyssal Brazil Basin, both within the AABW domain. Less conspicuous winnowing/accumulation patterns are indicated north of the La Plata within the NADW level according to the continental margin topography. We demonstrate that combined bulk geochemical and grain-size properties of surface sediments, unmixed with an end-member algorithm, provide a powerful tool to reconstruct the complex interplay of sedimentology and oceanography along a time slice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Frenz M, Henrich R, Höppner R, Stuut J-B, Wagner T

Editor(s): Wefer G; Mulitza S; Rathmeyer V

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The South Atlantic in the Late Quaternary: Reconstruction of Material Budget and Current Systems

Year: 2004

Pages: 347-373

Publisher: Springer

Place Published: Berlin

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 3540210288