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Sediment dynamics and palaeo-environmental context at key stages in the Challenger cold-water coral mound formation: Clues from sediment deposits at the mound base
Huvenne, V. A. I.; Van Rooij, D.; De Mol, B.; Thierens, M.; O’Donnell, R.; Foubert, A. (2009). Sediment dynamics and palaeo-environmental context at key stages in the Challenger cold-water coral mound formation: Clues from sediment deposits at the mound base. Deep-Sea Res., Part 1, Oceanogr. Res. Pap. 56(12): 2263-2280.
In: Deep-Sea Research, Part I. Oceanographic Research Papers. Elsevier: Oxford. ISSN 0967-0637; e-ISSN 1879-0119, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Cold-water corals; Carbonate mounds; Sediment dynamics; Planktonic foraminifera assemblages; Grain size; NE Atlantic

Authors  Top 
  • Huvenne, V. A. I., more
  • Van Rooij, D., more
  • De Mol, B., more
  • Thierens, M.
  • O’Donnell, R.
  • Foubert, A., more

    IODP Expedition 307, targeting the 160 m high Challenger Mound and its surroundings in the Porcupine Seabight, NE Atlantic, was the first occasion of scientific drilling of a cold-water coral carbonate mound. Such mound structures are found at several locations along the continental margin but are especially numerous off Ireland. All rooted on a common unconformity (RD1) and embedded in drift sediments, the mounds in the Porcupine Seabight remain enigmatic structures, and their initial trigger and formation mechanisms are still not entirely clear. This paper discusses the sedimentary environment during the initial stages of Challenger Mound, and at the start-up of the embedding sediment drift. The results are interpreted within the regional palaeo-environmental context. Based on detailed grain-size analyses and planktonic foraminifera assemblage counts, a 14-m interval overlying the regional base-of-mound unconformity RD1 is characterised at IODP Sites U1317 (on mound), U1316 (off mound), and U1318 (background site). Several sedimentary facies are identified and interpreted in relation to regional current dynamics. Using the foraminifera counts, existing age models for the initial stages of on-mound and off-mound sedimentation are refined. Sedimentation within the initial mound was characterised by a two-mode system, with the observed cyclicities related to glacial/interglacial stages. However, the contrast in environmental conditions between the stages was less extreme than observed in the most recent glacial/interglacial cycles, allowing continuous cold-water coral growth. This sustained presence of coral framework was the key factor for fast mound build-up, baffling sediments at periods of slack currents, and protecting them from renewed erosion during high-current events. The off-mound and background sedimentation consisted mainly of a succession of contourite beds, ranging from sandy contourites in the initial stages to muddy contourites higher up in the sequence, representing the true onset of drift sedimentation. The latter illustrate the increasing importance of glacial conditions after the Mid-Pleistocene Revolution. The overall findings are summarised in a descriptive conceptual model.

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