Accumulation rates of major constituents of hemipelagic sediments in the deep Alboran Sea: A centennial perspective of sedimentary dynamics

P. Masqué, J. Fabres, M. Canals, J. A. Sanchez-Cabeza, A. Sanchez-Vidal, I. Cacho, A. M. Calafat, J. M. Bruach

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64 Citations (Scopus)


The accumulation rates of sediment and major constituents in three different geographic areas of the Alboran Sea have been assessed by means of 210Pb and 137Cs concentration profiles. Mixing is present in the top layer of the sedimentary column, with mixing coefficients estimated to range from 0.2 to 15 cm2 yr-1. Overall, apparent sedimentation rates for the last 100 years range from 0.014 to 0.182 g cm-2 yr-1 and show a tendency to decrease with distance to the coast and water column depth. However, specific characteristics of the sea floor for each physiographic environment govern the actual patterns of sediment accumulation. Particularly noticeable are the feeding role of submarine canyons, the trapping effect of slope terraces and the isolation caused by ridges. Sediment accumulation induced by turbiditic flows is also observed north of the Almeria-Oran area. Excess 210Pb inventories and surface concentrations reveal a net effect of sediment focussing and point to the role of bottom nepheloid layers in supplying a significant fraction of sediments to the deep areas. This is also evidenced by comparison of bottom sediment with the sediment trap data available from the Malaga area. We estimate that the particle advective input below 30 m above the bottom accounts for as much as 50-70% of the material that is ultimately deposited onto the sea floor. The greater abundance of lithogenic material in the Malaga zone (∼ 80%) reflects its larger input in the western Alboran Sea. Conversely, carbonate contents increase from less than 20% in this area to about 30% in the Almeria-Oran zone, reflecting the lesser importance of the dilution by lithogenic components. Biogenic silica was only detected in some surface samples, and no significant preservation was observed below the Eh boundary. Abundance and accumulation rates of organic matter are in accordance with the spatial patterns of primary production in the Alboran Sea: higher in the western part, due to the presence of the Western Alboran Gyre. However, near-bottom redistribution leads to the homogenisation of organic matter concentrations in bottom sediments of any given area. Finally, from comparisons with sediment trap data, the degradation of organic matter has been estimated to be approximately 30-40% of what reaches the bottom. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-233
JournalMarine Geology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2003


  • Alboran Sea
  • Cs-137
  • Main constituents
  • Organic carbon
  • Pb-210
  • Sediment accumulation rates
  • Western Mediterranean


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