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Benthic foraminifera of surface sediments from the continental slope off Sierra Leone, North-West Africa

By B Zobel and Ulrich Ranke

Abstract

On "Meteor" cruise 30 (1973) 22 piston-cores were collected off Sierra Leone from water-depths between about 5000 m (Sierra Leone Basin) and 500 m (upper continental slope) with the objective to study the sediment composition and age as well as processes of sedimentation on the continental slope in a tropical humid region. Granulometric analysis and determinations of the carbonate contents of the sediment samples were carried out, as well as qualitative and quantitative analysis of the components of the grain size fractions > 63 µm and of the planktonic and benthonic foraminifera > 160 µm. Presently, the cold Canary Current influences the composition of the planktonic foraminifera within the northwestern area of investigation (profile A), whereas the planktonic fauna of the eastern area (profile C) seems to be truly tropical. In all Quaternary sediments from the continental slope off Sierra Leone, species of Globorotalia are less abundant than in truly pelagic sediments. For that reason, the zonation of the Pleistocene sediments based on the presence or absence of Globorotalia cultrata does not always agree with the climatic changes reflected in the sediments. Concerning past climates better results can be obtained by using the changes in percentage abundances of Globigerina sp. sp. and Globigerinoides sp. sp. as indicators for cool and warm temperatures. The Tertiary sediments contain a pelagic foraminiferal assemblage. In the Holocene sediments the benthonic foraminifera do not only serve as good paleodepth indicators, but their communities are also restricted to defined water masses, which change their positions in accordance with climatic changes. Thus, Cassidulina carinata in the area of investigation is an excellent indicator for sediments deposited during times, which were cooler than today; this is true for all cores from the continental slope off Sierra Leone independent of water-depth although this species presently abounds at water-depths around 600 m. The cores from the continental rise and from the Sierra Leone Basin (M30-261, M30-146, M30-147) were deposited below the calcium carbonate compensation depth. Only small sections of the cores consist of the original carbonate-free sediments, whereas the main part of the sediment column is redeposited material, rich in foraminifera, which normally live on the upper continental slope, or even on the shelf. From these cores only M30-261 can be subdivided into biostratigraphic zones ranging from zone V to zone Y. In all cores from the middle and upper continental slope of the eastern area of investigation (profile C; KL 230, 209-204) and in cores KL 183 and KL 184 from the northwestern area (profile A) we observed an undisturbed succession of sediments from the biostratigraphic zones X (partly), Y and Z. All cores from the central area (M30-181, M30-182, M30-262 to 264) and M30-187 from the upper slope of profile A show variable hiatuses in the sedimentary record. Locally, high velocity bottom currents were probably responsible for erosion, nondeposition or minimal sedimentation rates. These currents might have been initiated partly by the somewhat exposed position of this part of the continental slope, where the shelf edge bends from a northwest towards an eastern direction, and partly by very young tectonic movements. Fracture zones with vertically displaced fault blocs are frequent at Sierra Leone continental margin. According to seismic measurements by McMaster et al. (1975) the sites of the central area are located on an uplifted fault bloc explaining the reduced sediment rates or erosion. Unlike the central area, the eastern area (profile C) is situated on a downfaulted bloc with high sediment rates. The sediments from the cores of profile B as well as the turbiditic deep-sea sediments were deposited under a higher flow regime; therefore they are coarser than the extremely fine-grained sediments of the cores from profile C. Since the sand fraction (> 63 µm) is mainly composed of foraminifera, besides pteropods and light-colored fecal pellets, the carbonate content increases with the increasing percentage of the coarse grain fraction. Higher concentrations of quartz were only observed in core sections with considerable carbonate dissolution (mainly in the X-Zone), and, in general, in all sediments from the eastern area with higher terrigenous input including larger concentration of mica. Especially during times transitional between glacials and interglacials (or interstadials) the bottom currents were intensified. The percentages of coarse fraction and carbonate increase with increasing current velocities. Calcium carbonate dissolution becomes important in water depths > 3500 m. During cooler times the lysokline is depressed. Light-colored fecal pellets were redeposited from Late Neogene sediments (M30-187, M30-181). In the area of investigation they occur in the Holocene and mainly the Pleistocene sediments of the cores from the northwestern and central area because only here Tertiary sediments have been eroded at the uppermost continental slope. In the central area there are at least two periods of non-sedimentation and/or erosion which can be confined as being (1) not older than middle Pliocene and not younger than zone V and (2) younger than zone W. The local character of the erosion is documented by the fact that a complete Late Quaternary section is present in the cores of the northwestern and eastern area, each within less than 100 km from incomplete cores from the central area

Topics: BC; Box corer; M30; M30_146; M30_147; M30_181; M30_183; M30_185; M30_186; M30_187; M30_204; M30_205; M30_206; M30_207; M30_208; M30_209; M30_230; M30_232; M30_262; M30_263; M30_264; M30_327; M30_329; Meteor (1964); North Atlantic Ocean; PC; Piston corer; Westafrika 1973
Publisher: PANGAEA
Year: 1978
DOI identifier: 10.1594/PANGAEA.548464
OAI identifier: oai:pangaea.de:doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.548464
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