Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Ruth Durán1, Jesús Rivera2, Jorge Guillén1, Enrique de Cárdenas3, Araceli Muñoz4 and Juan Acosta2, (1)Instituto de Ciencias del Mar (ICM-CSIC), Barcelona, Spain, (2)Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Madrid, Spain, (3)Dirección General de Recursos Pesqueros y Acuicultura, Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, Madrid, Spain, (4)Tragsatec S.A., Madrid, Spain
During the last years, the increasing application of multibeam sonar systems for mapping the seafloor has revealed the occurrence of sedimentary bedforms on the continental shelves worldwide. In addition, repeated multibeam surveys are used to monitor and compare the temporal evolution of such morphologies providing important insights into the sedimentary processes on the continental shelf.

In the Murcia continental shelf, Western Mediterranean Sea, a large filed of subaqueous dunes has been observed in the middle and outer shelf. Here, we present a detailed morphologic and sedimentological analysis of these features with the aim to discuss their possible mechanism of formation and assess their potential mobility. The findings are based on swath-bathymetry collected using a SIMRAD EM 710 and EM3000D multibeam echosounders, high-resolution seismic profiles acquired with a TOPAS 018 system and sediment samples.

Dunes are widely distributed between 60 and 110 m depth, from the Cope Cape, to the north, to the Águilas submarine canyon head rim, to the south. Dunes range from 18 to 140 m in wavelength and from 0.29 to 1.28 m in height. Dunes have asymmetrical profiles (average asymmetry of 0.065) with the lee slope facing towards the southwest that indicate a net south-westward sediment transport. Seabed samples collected in the crests and troughs of individual dunes show a similar grain-size distribution curve, but differ in the content of fines, which is higher in the trough, whereas the crests are dominated by coarse particles. High resolution seismic profiles reveal the presence of a continuous strong reflector that constitutes the base of the subaqueous dunes and could likely correspond to the Holocene transgressive ravinement surface.

Dune migration rates were determined from the net displacement of the crests and troughs positions deduced from repeated multibeam surveys (2003 and 2013). Results indicate that the subaqueous dunes remain stationary or migrate at low rates towards the southwest (migration rates < 1 m yr-1). Bedform asymmetry and migration are consistent with the general circulation of the margin, characterized by a predominant geostrophic current flowing south-westward along the shelf break.