The Importance of Subsurface Nepheloid Layers in Transport and Delivery of Sediments to the Eastern Cariaco Basin, Venezuela

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Cariaco Basin, Nepheloid layers, Particulate organic matter, Sediment transport

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Optical transmissometer measurements were coupled with particulate organic matter (POM) observations to understand suspended sediment composition and distribution in the eastern Cariaco Basin during the rainy seasons of September 2003 and 2006. Our results suggest that nepheloid layers originating at the mouth of small mountainous rivers discharging into the eastern Basin are a major delivery mechanism of terrigenous sediments to the Basin interior. Intermediate nepheloid layers (INL) were observed near the shelf break (∼100 m) and appear to effectively transport terrigenous material laterally from the shelf to deep waters, thereby providing a plausible supply mechanism of the terrestrial material observed in sediment traps. These findings highlight the importance of small, local rivers in the Cariaco Basin as sources of terrestrial material. In contrast, these nepheloid layers contained only limited POM. When this information is combined with published sediment trap POM data, it suggests that nepheloid layers may not be a primary mechanism for delivering terrigenous POM to the deeper waters of the basin during the rainy season. Rather, BNL may redistribute marine-derived POM from shallow waters to the Basin's interior by providing ballast materials, particularly during episodic events driven by wind and precipitation. Though we have determined that nepheloid layers play an important role in the seaward transport of particulate material in the Cariaco Basin, their composition and temporal variability have not been fully characterized. This is critical to understand lateral particle transport, since nepheloid layers constitute a significant source of sediment to the deep Cariaco Basin.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, v. 56, issue 12, p. 2249-2262