Sediment production and transport in the New Zealand Southern Alps – Canterbury sedimentary system during the Late Pleistocene: the influence of alpine glacial erosion on the marine stratigraphic record.
Monday, 15 December 2014
Quaternary mountain glaciations have greatly modified landscape and sediment production, especially after the Mid Pleistocene Transition. However, the impact of increased glacigenic sediment yields on continental margin sedimentation is poorly documented during this period in which eustasy is proposed as the dominant control on margin development. We study the provenance of sediment accumulated in the continental shelf during the Late Pleistocene, by performing 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of the bulk silt-size fraction on sediment samples from three sites drilled during IODP Expedition 317 to Canterbury Basin, New Zealand. The results show ages that range from 25 to 90 Ma, which are significantly younger than the cooling ages of the potential rock sources (>100 Ma). Bedrock cooling ages similar to our results are found adjacent to the Main Divide Fault Zone, located near the main drainage divide in Central Southern Alps. This suggests that a large proportion of sediment accumulating in the continental shelf is sourced in this region of highest elevation and maximum glacial erosion. Sediment bulk ages in the cores show younger ages up-section, suggesting that contribution of young sediment has increased and/or that glaciers have eroded younger rocks with time. In addition, sediment ages are younger in the most landward site, while the most offshore site observes young ages later indicating that the input of young sediment across the continental shelf is progressive, likely by means of sediment reworking during sea level transgression and shoreline migration during sea level fall. We propose that sediment transfer from source to sink occurs in steps in which sediment undergoes several cycles of transport and storage until final accumulation. Glacial erosion plays a very important role in this sedimentary system, supplying sediment that is likely eroded in a zone of rock weakness. The age signature of the muddy sediment accumulating in the continental shelf likely reflects Late Pleistocene landscape evolution in the Southern Alps.