Marine Geophysical Researches

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 379–394 | Cite as

Reconstructions of the Mediterranean Outflow Water during the quaternary based on the study of changes in buried mounded drift stacking pattern in the Gulf of Cadiz

  • Estefania LlaveEmail author
  • Francisco J. Hernández-Molina
  • Dorrik A. V. Stow
  • Mari Carmen Fernández-Puga
  • Margarita García
  • Juan T. Vázquez
  • Adolfo Maestro
  • Luis Somoza
  • Victor Díaz del Río
Original Research Paper


Contourite deposits in the central sector of the middle slope of the Gulf of Cadiz have been studied using a comprehensive acoustic, seismic and core database. Buried, mounded, elongated and separated drifts developed under the influence of the lower core of the Mediterranean Outflow Water are preserved in the sedimentary record. These are characterised by depositional features in an area where strong tectonic and erosive processes are now dominant. The general stacking pattern of the depositional system is mainly influenced by climatic changes through the Quaternary, whereas changes in the depositional style observed in two, buried, mounded drifts, the Guadalquivir and Huelva Drifts, are evidence of a tectonic control. In the western Guadalquivir Drift, the onset of the sheeted drift construction (aggrading QII unit) above a mounded drift (prograding QI unit) resulted from a new Lower Mediterranean Core Water hydrodynamic regime. This change is correlated with a tectonic event coeval with the Mid Pleistocene Revolution (MPR) discontinuity that produced new irregularities of the seafloor during the Mid- to Late-Pleistocene. Changes in the Huelva Drift from a mounded to a sheeted drift geometry during the Late-Pleistocene, and from a prograding drift (QI and most part of QII) to an aggrading one (upper seismic unit of QII), highlight a new change in oceanographic conditions. This depositional and then oceanographic change is associated with a tectonic event, coeval with the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 6 discontinuity, in which a redistribution of the diapiric ridges led to the development of new local gateways, three principal branches of the Mediterranean Lower Core Water, and associated contourite channels. As a result, these buried contourite drifts hold a key palaeoceanographic record of the evolution of Mediterranean Lower Core Water, influenced by both neotectonic activity and climatic changes during the Quaternary. This study is an example of how contourite deposits and erosive elements in the marine environment can provide evidence for the reconstruction of palaeoceanographic and recent tectonic changes.


Contourite deposits Gulf of Cadiz Mediterranean Outflow Water Quaternary Seismic stratigraphy Neotectonics Diapirism Palaeoceanography 



This work was supported by the projects Principal Branch-91-0622-C03 (GOLCA); Principal Branch-94-1090-C03-03 (FADO); MAR-98-0209 (TASYO) and REN2002-04117-C03-01/02/03 (GADES). In addition, our results are related to the Special Actions: REN2002-11669-E (MVSEIS Project) and REN2002-11668 (MOUNDFOURCE Project), as well as the IGCP-432 Project ‘Contourites, Bottom Currents and Paleocirculation’. This is a contribution to the project CONSOLIDER-INGENIO 2010 CSD2006-0041-TOPOIBERIA. This work has been partially carried out during a research stage of F. J. Hernández-Molina funded by the ‘Mobility Award’ from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science at NOCS (UK) (PR2006-0275) and Marine & Geophysical Division of the Argentine Hydrographic Institute (PR2007-0138). DAV Stow acknowledges receipt of a ‘Mobility Award’ from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (ref: SAB2005-0182) during which time he was working at the Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia (Málaga). We thank the comments and suggestions of the Editor-in-Chief Peter Clift and the three anonymous reviewers who helped us to improve the early version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Estefania Llave
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Francisco J. Hernández-Molina
    • 3
  • Dorrik A. V. Stow
    • 4
  • Mari Carmen Fernández-Puga
    • 5
  • Margarita García
    • 6
  • Juan T. Vázquez
    • 7
  • Adolfo Maestro
    • 1
  • Luis Somoza
    • 1
  • Victor Díaz del Río
    • 5
  1. 1.Instituto Geológico y Minero de EspañaMadridSpain
  2. 2.Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, Servicio de Geología MarinaTres CantosSpain
  3. 3.Facultad de Ciencias del MarUniversidad de VigoVigoSpain
  4. 4.National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS)SouthamptonUK
  5. 5.Instituto Español de OceanografíaFuengirolaSpain
  6. 6.Instituto de Ciencias del Mar, CSICBarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.Facultad de Ciencias del MarUniversidad de CádizPuerto RealSpain

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