The uppermost Pleistocene–Holocene mud drape across the Marmara Sea: quantification of detrital supply from southern Marmara rivers

Type Article
Date 2021-04
Language English
Author(s) Hiscott R.N.1, Aksu A.E.1, Yaltırak C.2
Affiliation(s) 1 : Earth Sciences Department, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL A1B 3X5, Canada
2 : Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Mines, 80626 Maslak, Istanbul, Turkey
Source Sedimentary Geology (0037-0738) (Elsevier BV), 2021-04 , Vol. 415 , P. 105851 (19p.)
DOI 10.1016/j.sedgeo.2021.105851
WOS© Times Cited 3
Keyword(s) Marine sediment, Mud, Chemical analyses, Sea-level changes, Transgression, Waterways

The Marmara Sea (area 11,350 km2; volume 3,378 km3; central basins >1100 m deep) straddles the North Anatolian Transform Fault separating the Eurasian and Aegean-Anatolian tectonic plates. Along with the shallow straits of Dardanelles and Bosphorus (depths ~63 m and ~40 m, respectively), the Marmara Sea forms the only marine connection between the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. During Pleistocene glacial stages, the modern straits were subaerial valleys and the modern Marmara basin was occupied by the landlocked Propontis Lake. Previous researchers attributed major portions of a widely distributed uppermost Pleistocene–Holocene mud blanket (locally >10–25 m thick; volume 43–47 km3) to transport of suspended load through one or both of the straits, as either the Aegean Sea (at ~13.8 cal ka) or the Neoeuxine Lake (today's Black Sea, at ~11.1 cal ka) began to spill into the Marmara basin. To test these suggestions, the thicknesses and volume of the mud blanket were determined from >5000 line-km of airgun, sparker and boomer profiles and >100 cores, and compared with the contemporary supply from local rivers to decide, by difference, if the straits might have had a significant role. Volume calculations for the detrital supply from rivers rely on (1) decades of daily water- and sediment-discharge data from gauging stations, acquired before 20th century dam construction and, independently, (2) the BQART model which uses a variety of hydrological, geomorphic, geological and climate data. These calculations demonstrate that >85–90% of the detritus in the offshore mud blanket was supplied by steep rivers (Kocasu River and its tributaries) and mountainous streams draining the highlands of the southern Marmara region. Geochemistry of the <38 μm fraction supports this source. Any input through the Dardanelles has been sporadic and limited to perhaps ~5 Gt of suspended load (equivalent to ~5.2 km3 of porous mud when deposited) because of changing directions and rates of flow since the Last Glacial Maximum. Resedimentation through mass wasting and transgressive shoreface erosion appear to be minor compared with river supply. The isolated nature of the Marmara basin and its supply from mostly a single watershed afford an opportunity to verify the reliability of this type of hindcast analysis, based upon sediment-discharge data and catchment models – analysis which cannot be completed with a comparable level of certainty along open marine coastlines elsewhere.

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