Delta growth and river valleys: the influence of climate and sea level changes on the South Adriatic shelf (Mediterranean Sea)

TitleDelta growth and river valleys: the influence of climate and sea level changes on the South Adriatic shelf (Mediterranean Sea)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsMaselli, V, Trincardi, F, Asioli, A, Ceregato, A, Rizzetto, F, Taviani, M
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews

Incised valleys across continental margins represent the response of fluvial systems to changes in their equilibrium dynamics, mainly driven by base level fall forced by glacial–eustatic cycles. The Manfredonia Incised Valley formed during the last glacial sea level lowstand, when most of the southern Adriatic shelf was sub-aerially exposed but the outer shelf remained under water. The pronounced upstream deepening of the valley is ascribed to river incision of the MIS5e highstand coastal prism and related subaqueous clinoform under the influence of MIS5-4 sea level fluctuations, while the downstream shallowing and narrowing mainly reflects the impact of increased rates of sea level fall at the MIS3-2 transition on a flatter mid-outer shelf. Until 15 ka BP, the valley fed an asymmetric delta confined to the mid-outer shelf, testifying that continental and deep marine systems remained disconnected during the lowstand. Sea level rise reached the inner shelf during the Early Holocene, drowning the valley and leading to the formation of a sheltered embayment confined toward the land: at this time part of the incision remained underfilled with a marked bathymetric expression. This mini-basin was rapidly filled by sandy bayhead deltas, prograding from both the northern and southern sides of the valley. In this environment, protected by marine reworking and where sediment dispersal was less effective, the accommodation space was reduced and autogenic processes forced the formation of multiple and coalescing delta lobes. Bayhead delta progradations occurred in few centuries, between 8 and 7.2 ka cal BP, confirming the recent hypothesis that in this area the valley was filled during the formation of sapropel S1. This proximal valley fill, representing the very shallow-water equivalent of the cm-thick sapropel layers accumulated offshore in the deeper southern Adriatic basin, is of key importance in following the signature of the sapropel in a facies-tract ideally from the shoreline to the abyss.