Holistic approach offers potential to quantify mass fluxes across continental margins

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Abstract

Most humans live on and utilize the continental margin, the surface of which changes continually in response to environmental perturbations such as weather, climate change, tectonism, earthquakes, volcanism, sea level, and human settlement and land use. Part of the margin is above sea level and the rest is submarine, but these land and seascape components are contiguous, and material transport from source to sink occurs as a seamless cascade. The margin responds to environmental perturbations by changing the nature and magnitude of a variety of important functions, including the distribution of soil formation and erosion; biogeochemical functioning (especially the storage and release of water, limiting nutrients and contaminants); and the form and behavior of geomorphic components from hill slopes and floodplains through the coastal zone to the continental rise. While some areas of the margin are eroding—for example, hill slopes—others accumulate sediment, such as tectonic basins and continental slope and rise. These areas record the history of surface changes.

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