Sedimentological history of Bryant Canyon area, northwest Grulf of Mexico, during the last 135 kyr (Marine Isotope Stages 1-6): A proxy record of Mississippi River discharge Academic Article uri icon


  • Bryant and Eastern Canyons are located in northwest Gulf of Mexico, and are characterized by a complex sedimentological history related to glacioeustatic cycles, river discharges, and interactions between depositional and halokinetic processes. This study is based on detailed sedimentological analysis from forty-eight long cores from these two canyons. This paper determines the evolutionary history of the canyons and assesses the response of sedimentary processes to morphological, climatic, hydrological, and sea-level changes. During the last glaciation, the upper and middle continental slope was supplied with sediments by low density turbidity currents derived from the depositional segregation (deposition of the coarsest material in the most proximal locations) of large turbidity currents initiated on the outer shelf. The lower continental slope was supplied with sediment by westward flowing bottom currents, originated from the entrainment of the most diluted wash-load and tails of turbidity currents from the Mississippi Fan. Bryant and Eastern Canyon systems were active during the penultimate glaciation, Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 6, and were supplied with sediments by an ancestral shelf-margin Mississippi River delta. Gravity flows transported enormous amounts of sediment to the continental slope and abyssal plain of the northwest Gulf of Mexico. The sea-level rise at MIS 5 led to confinement of river-sourced sediments to the widespread continental shelf of the northwest Gulf of Mexico, and consequently to the cessation of gravity flows. During the first 40kyr of MIS 5, salt diapirs transformed the canyons into a network of intraslope basins. The sea level dropped to the mid-shelf during MIS 3 and 4, but never reached the shelf-break, and therefore, river-sourced sediments remained largely confined to the shelf. However, seaward sediment transportation was achieved occasionally through turbidity currents related to sediment failures, storms, and high-river discharges. Four high river discharge events have been identified during this period. The first three were centred at 37, 45, and 53cal ka BP. The last high river discharge occurred at the end of MIS 3 (29.4-33.2cal ka BP), and resulted in the deposition of closely-spaced, mud turbidites over the entire continental slope. The Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) was restricted north of the upper Mississippi River valley during 60 to 30cal ka BP and therefore, the high river discharge events are interpreted as melt-water events, related to brief southward advancements of the LIS, which resulted in the flooding of Mississippi River. The extensive lowering of sea level during the last glacial maximum (MIS 2) resulted in the almost direct discharge of Mississippi River sediments to the upper continental slope leading to the development of abundant turbidity currents. Eleven wet-dry cycles during this period are defined; they probably originated from episodic subglacial melt-water floods, released from southern parts of the LIS. The last deglaciation event is characterized by the development of a major melt water event at 16.5-13cal ka BP that resulted in the deposition of distinct, organic-rich sediments. At about 13cal ka BP, the melt water discharges of the LIS in North America switched from the Mississippi River to either the St. Lawrence or Mackenzie River valleys, causing the domination of hemipelagic sedimentation on the continental slope of the northwest Gulf of Mexico. Isotopic data indicate that melt-water discharges returned to the Mississippi River Valley at 11.4cal ka BP. The absence of any sedimentological indication on the continental slope of the northwest Gulf of Mexico of the return of the melt-water discharges to the Mississippi River is attributed to the confinement of river-sourced sediments on the continental shelf due to the rise of the sea level. 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Tripsanas, E. K., Bryant, W. R., Slowey, N. C., Bouma, A. H., Karageorgis, A. P., & Berti, D.

citation count

  • 36

complete list of authors

  • Tripsanas, Efthymios K||Bryant, William R||Slowey, Niall C||Bouma, Arnold H||Karageorgis, Aristomenis P||Berti, Debora

publication date

  • January 2007