Subsurface control on seafloor erosional processes offshore of the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana
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The Chandeleur Islands lie on the eastern side of the modern Mississippi River delta plain, near the edge of the St. Bernard Delta complex. Since abandonment approximately 2,000 years b.p., this delta complex has undergone subsidence and ravinement as the shoreline has transgressed across it. High-resolution seismic-reflection, sidescan-sonar, and bathymetry data show that seafloor erosion is influenced by locally variable shallow stratigraphy. The data reveal two general populations of shallow erosional depressions, either linear or subcircular in shape. Linear depressions occur primarily where sandy distributary-channel deposits are exposed on the seafloor. The subcircular pits are concentrated in areas where delta-front deposits crop out, and occasional seismic blanking indicates that gas is present. The difference in erosional patterns suggests that delta-front and distributary-channel deposits respond uniquely to wave and current energy expended on the inner shelf, particularly during stormy periods. Linear depressions may be the result of the sandy distributary-channel deposits eroding more readily by waves and coastal currents than the surrounding delta-front deposits. Pits may develop as gas discharge or liquefaction occurs within fine-grained delta-front deposits, causing seafloor collapse. These detailed observations suggest that ravinement of this inner shelf surface may be ongoing, is controlled by the underlying stratigraphy, and has varied morphologic expression.
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