Assessment of Canyon Wall Failure Process from Multibeam Bathymetry and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Observations, U.S. Atlantic Continental Margin
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Over the last few years, canyons along the northern U.S. Atlantic continental margin have been the focus of intensive research examining canyon evolution, submarine geohazards, benthic ecology and deep-sea coral habitat. New high-resolution multibeam bathymetry and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives in the major shelf-breaching and minor slope canyons, provided the opportunity to investigate the size of, and processes responsible for, canyon wall failures. The canyons cut through thick Late Cretaceous to Recent mixed siliciclastic and carbonate-rich lithologies which impart a primary control on the style of failures observed. Broad-scale canyon morphology across much of the margin can be correlated to the exposed lithology. Near vertical walls, sedimented benches, talus slopes, and canyon floor debris aprons were present in most canyons. The extent of these features depends on canyon wall cohesion and level of internal fracturing, and resistance to biological and chemical erosion. Evidence of brittle failure over different spatial and temporal scales, physical abrasion by downslope moving flows, and bioerosion, in the form of burrows and surficial scrape marks provide insight into the modification processes active in these canyons. The presence of sessile fauna, including long-lived, slow growing corals and sponges, on canyon walls, especially those affected by failure provide a critical, but as yet, poorly understood chronological record of geologic processes within these systems.
KeywordsRock fall Bioerosion Geochronology Benthic ecology
We would like to thank the captains and crews of the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, ROV and telepresence engineers and scientists involved with Okeanos expeditions EX1304L1, EX1304L2, and EX1404L3. This manuscript benefited greatly from reviews provided by Laura Brother, Erika Lentz, Silvia Ceramicola, and Aaron Micallef. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
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