Quaternary sedimentary processes on the Bahamas: From platform to abyss

Understanding the interaction between sediment production on and export from shallow-water areas of platforms and slopes is primordial when assessing sedimentary processes on a carbonate-platform scale. In this manuscript we explore variations in facies, sediment export, sediment deposition and reorganisation, hydroacoustic- and small-scale sedimentary structures, but also assess the variability in current systems as observed during the Quaternary for the north-facing margin of Little Bahama Bank (LBB) and compare those characteristics with features observed on other slopes surrounding LBB and Great Bahama Bank (GBB).

Over the past decade, the northern margin of LBB was explored during a series of oceanographic cruises of the CARAMBAR project, which included the collection of 24.270 km2 of bathymetry data, 6.398 km of very high-resolution seismic profiles, and 42 cores covering water depths ranging from 177 m to 4873 m. This study evaluates the results obtained from the analysis of sediment cores retrieved in the Great Abaco Canyon area (GAC), located between the lower northern LBB slope, which is connected to the abyssal plain. The analysis of the shallower parts of the LBB slope relies on earlier studies and are complementary to our data, and allow for a detailed analysis of the sedimentary processes acting along the entire LBB slope.

The data reveal that Quaternary sediment distribution differs when moving from the north-eastern to the north-western LBB slope. The entire LBB slope is dissected by numerous canyons. Gravity processes enriched in coarse platform components occur infrequently and are concentrated within lobes in the east. Only coarse-grained rich bank facies can concentrate coarse grains on this margin. The western LBB slope is mostly influenced by fine-grained platform export and current circulation. The deeper GAC area is dominated by pelagic sediments that are supplied from the canyon sides and through tributaries. The sediment composition confirms that pelagic sediment production and current movements determine the sediment-deposition and redistribution processes at this site.

The comparison with other Bahamian slopes demonstrates that a leeward position agrees with high sedimentation rates on the slopes resulting in specific morphologic structures, such as gullies and sediment waves, related to fine-grained sediment export, whereas platform-derived coarse-grained facies are deposited downstream in larger structures, such as canyons, that are not affected by the main wind direction. Slope angle could also have an impact on grain-size export, as it appears that coarse-grained deposits are frequent on steep slopes like those bordering the Exuma Sound basin.


Carbonate, Slope, Bahamas, Quaternary, Leeward vs. Windward, Sediment processes

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Fauquembergue K., Ducassou E., Mulder T., Reijmer J.J.G., Borgomano J., Recouvreur A., Hanquiez V., Betzler C., Principaud Melanie, Chabaud L., Fabregas N., Giraudeau J., Bout-Roumazeilles V., Moal-Darrigade P., Perello M.-C., Poli E. (2023). Quaternary sedimentary processes on the Bahamas: From platform to abyss. Marine Geology. 459. 107044 (23p.). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2023.107044, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00832/94441/

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