Geo-Marine Letters

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 259–272 | Cite as

River-plume sedimentation and 210Pb/7Be seabed delivery on the Mississippi River delta front

  • Gregory Keller
  • Samuel J. Bentley
  • Ioannis Y. Georgiou
  • Jillian Maloney
  • Michael D. Miner
  • Kehui Xu


To constrain the timing and processes of sediment delivery and submarine mass-wasting events spanning the last few decades on the Mississippi River delta front, multi-cores and gravity cores (0.5 and <3 m length respectively) were collected seaward of the Mississippi River Southwest Pass in 25–75 m water depth in 2014. The cores were analyzed for radionuclide activity (7Be, 210Pb, 137Cs), grain size, bulk density, and fabric (X-radiography). Core sediments are faintly bedded, sparsely bioturbated, and composed mostly of clay and fine silt. Short-term sedimentation rates (from 7Be) are 0.25–1.5 mm/day during river flooding, while longer-term accumulation rates (from 210Pb) are 1.3–7.9 cm/year. In most cores, 210Pb activity displays undulatory profiles with overall declining activity versus depth. Undulations are not associated with grain size variations, and are interpreted to represent variations in oceanic 210Pb scavenging by river-plume sediments. The 210Pb profile of one gravity core from a mudflow gully displays uniform basal excess activity over a zone of low and uniform bulk density, interpreted to be a mass-failure event that occurred 9–18 years before core collection. Spatial trends in sediment deposition (from 7Be) and accumulation (from 210Pb) indicate that proximity to the river mouth has stronger influence than local facies (mudflow gully, depositional lobe, prodelta) over the timeframe and seabed depth represented by the cores (<40 years, <3 m length). This may be explained by rapid proximal sediment deposition from river plumes coupled with infrequent tropical cyclone activity near the delta in the last 7 years (2006–2013), and by the location of most sediment failure surfaces (from mass flows indicated by parallel geophysical studies) deeper than the core-sampling depths of the present study.


210Pb Tropical Cyclone River Plume Sediment Accumulation Rate 210Pb Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was funded by the Department of Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, under the cooperative agreement M13AC00013, via the Louisiana State University Coastal Marine Institute program. We would like to thank the field support group of the Coastal Studies Institute of Louisiana State University for their invaluable help during field operations, as well as all others who assisted. We are grateful to all of the undergraduate students who performed laboratory analyses. Also acknowledged are Jeffrey Obelcz for helpful input, two reviewers for constructive assessments of an earlier version of this article, as well as the journal editors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest with third parties.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory Keller
    • 1
    • 2
  • Samuel J. Bentley
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ioannis Y. Georgiou
    • 4
  • Jillian Maloney
    • 5
  • Michael D. Miner
    • 6
  • Kehui Xu
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Coastal Studies InstituteLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geology and GeophysicsLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Oceanography and Coastal SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  5. 5.Department of Geological SciencesSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  6. 6.U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy ManagementNew OrleansUSA

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