Tectonic history, microtopography and bottom water circulation of the Natal Valley and Mozambique Ridge, southwest Indian Ocean.
This thesis focuses on aspects of the tectonic history, sediment delivery and subsequent sediment redistribution within the Natal Valley and Mozambique Basin of the southwest Indian Ocean. It aims to 1) better constrain the tectonic history of these basins based on anomalous seafloor features, 2) understand the timing, evolution and formative processes of sediment delivery systems within the Natal Valley and Mozambique Basin, 3) account for the redistribution of seafloor sediments within the southwest Indian Ocean. The southwest Indian Ocean opened during the Gondwana breakup event giving rise to two north/south orientated rectangular basins separated by the Mozambique ridge. Early research (1980’s) within these basins discussed basin features in terms of the available data at the time. By modern standards these data sets are relatively low resolution, and did not allow early researchers to fully account for the existence, development or evolution of many morphological features within the southwest Indian Ocean. This study uses recently acquired multibeam bathymetry and PARASOUND/3.5 kHz seismic data sets to describe and account for the geomorphology of the southwest Indian Ocean. Antecedent geology is discussed with respect to its development, in association with regional regimes, and role in provision of accommodation space and sediment redistribution within the study area. Sediment delivery pathways from the continental shelf to the deep marine basins are discussed, outlining the evolution of these systems under the control of antecedent geology and regional uplift. The redistribution of sediment is then discussed from the microtopography observed within the southwest Indian Ocean. Results show anomalous seafloor mounds in the northern Natal Valley, and extensional structures within the Mozambique Basin, are likely linked to the southward propagation of the East African Rift System. Dynamic current regimes and antecedent geology have played a significant role in the availability of sediment and subsequent delivery of sediment to the Natal Valley and Mozambique Basin via submarine canyons and channels. Once delivered to the basins, sediments are redistributed by deep and bottom water thermohaline Circulation. In the Natal Valley this is manifest as an atypical, current swept and winnowed, submarine fan (associated with the Tugela Canyon). While in the Mozambique Basin significant sediment wave fields reflect the influence of Thermohaline Circulation within this basin, and interaction with the seafloor. This relationship between Thermohaline Circulation and seafloor sediments has allowed existing deep and bottom water pathways to be better constrained and, in some instances, modified to better represent the actual circulation within specific regions of the study area.
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