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Seafloor Morphology and Processes in the Alboran Sea

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Alboran Sea - Ecosystems and Marine Resources

Abstract

The seafloor of the Alboran Sea reflects its complex tectonic, sedimentary, and oceanography dynamics as a consequence of the geological context, involving interaction between the Eurasian and African plates, and oceanographic context, as it is where the Atlantic and Mediterranean waters meet. Their physiography has a semi-enclosed configuration characterized by two margins (the Spanish Iberian and North Africa—mostly Moroccan margins) enclosing deep basins. Tectonic activity is mainly attested by folds and faults that predominantly affect the central and eastern seafloor sectors, as well as numerous seamounts and fluid-flow features (pockmarks, mud volcanoes, and diapirs) that dot the seafloor. The sedimentary and oceanographic processes allow us to distinctly define two principal environments in the Alboran Sea: the shallow proximal margin (continental shelf); and the deep distal margin (continental slope and base of the slope) with the adjacent sub-basins. The shelf mostly comprises prodeltaic and infralittoral prograding wedges, with local bedform fields, submarine valleys, and wave-cut terraces. Coastal and fluvio-marine sedimentary processes, acting since the last glacial period, are responsible for these features. The deep marine environment is characterised by the ubiquity of contourites, whose continuity is interrupted by turbidite systems, canyons, and landslides. The alongslope action of the Mediterranean waters and their interfaces with the Atlantic water has been the main process governing transport, seafloor reworking, and sedimentation of contourites. Mass-movement processes are responsible for the formation of: (1) turbidite systems—turbidity flows and mass flows were dominant during the last glacial sea-level lowstand, evolving to dilute gravity flows during present interglacial high stand; and (2) landslides—the main triggering factors comprising over-steepening, seismicity, under consolidation due to overpressure by interstitial fluids, stratigraphy, and high sedimentation rates. Locally, still-undetermined biological activity in the Spanish and coral activity in the Moroccan margin generated fields of mounded bioconstructions. The seafloor morphology of the Alboran Sea offers interesting clues for assessing the main potential geological hazards, with tectonic seismicity and landslides (as well as their related tsunamis) being some of the most important potential hazards affecting coastal populations. In addition, the seafloor morphology in combination with assemblages of habitat-forming species enables habitat identification and mapping.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the following Spanish projects: INCRISIS, DAMAGE (CGL2016-80687-R AEI/FEDER), FAUCES (CTM2015-65461-C2-1-R) and ALSSOMAR S2S (CTM2017-88237-P), RNM 148 and RNM 328—Junta de Andalucía, MONCARAL and RIGEL projects (Instituto Español de Oceanografía) and Marlboro cruises. Likewise, this study was supported by the French program Actions Marges and the EUROFLEETS program-SARAS cruise (FP7/2007-2013; 228344). The Secretaria General de Pesca (Spain) yielded the bathymetric data from the northern part of the Alboran Sea. IHS-Kingdom Suite educational license.

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Ercilla, G. et al. (2021). Seafloor Morphology and Processes in the Alboran Sea. In: Báez, J.C., Vázquez, JT., Camiñas, J.A., Malouli Idrissi, M. (eds) Alboran Sea - Ecosystems and Marine Resources . Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-65516-7_6

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