Marine Science Faculty Publications

Sediment-Starved Sand Ridges on a Mixed Carbonate/Siliciclastic Inner Shelf off West-central Florida

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sand ridges, bedforms, side-scan mosaics, inner shelf, mixed carbonate/siliciclastic, west-central Florida shelf

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High-resolution side-scan mosaics, sediment analyses, and physical process data have revealed that the mixed carbonate/siliciclastic, inner shelf of west-central Florida supports a highly complex field of active sand ridges mantled by a hierarchy of bedforms. The sand ridges, mostly oriented obliquely to the shoreline trend, extend from 2 km to over 25 km offshore. They show many similarities to their well-known counterparts situated along the US Atlantic margin in that both increase in relief with increasing water depth, both are oriented obliquely to the coast, and both respond to modern shelf dynamics. There are significant differences in that the sand ridges on the west-central Florida shelf are smaller in all dimensions, have a relatively high carbonate content, and are separated by exposed rock surfaces. They are also shoreface-detached and are sediment-starved, thus stunting their development. Morphological details are highly distinctive and apparent in side-scan imagery due to the high acoustic contrast. The seafloor is active and not a relict system as indicated by: (1) relatively young AMS 14C dates (<1600 yr BP) from forams in the shallow subsurface (1.6 meters below seafloor), (2) apparent shifts in sharply distinctive grayscale boundaries seen in time-series side-scan mosaics, (3) maintenance of these sharp acoustic boundaries and development of small bedforms in an area of constant and extensive bioturbation, (4) sediment textural asymmetry indicative of selective transport across bedform topography, (5) morphological asymmetry of sand ridges and 2D dunes, and (6) current-meter data indicating that the critical threshold velocity for sediment transport is frequently exceeded. Although larger sand ridges are found along other portions of the west-central Florida inner shelf, these smaller sand ridges are best developed seaward of a major coastal headland, suggesting some genetic relationship. The headland may focus and accelerate the N–S reversing currents. An elevated rock terrace extending from the headland supports these ridges in a shallower water environment than the surrounding shelf, allowing them to be more easily influenced by currents and surface gravity waves. Tidal currents, storm-generated flows, and seasonally developed flows are shore-parallel and oriented obliquely to the NW–SE trending ridges, indicating that they have developed as described by the Huthnance model. Although inner shelf sand ridges have been extensively examined elsewhere, this study is the first to describe them in a low-energy, sediment-starved, dominantly mixed siliciclastic/carbonate sedimentary environment situated on a former limestone platform.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Marine Geology, v. 200, issue 1-4, p. 171-194