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Abstract

The transport of sediment from the mouth of the Indus River on to the deep-water submarine fan is complicated by temporary storage within large clinoforms on the shelf on either side of the submarine canyon, where most of the sedimentation since the start of the Holocene has occurred. In contrast, shelf edge clinoform deltas represent the products of forced regression and not the progradation of highstand clinoforms as far as the shelf edge. Clinoform sediments have a mixed provenance that involves significant reworking of older sediment deposited during or before the last glacial maximum. Recent sedimentation in the canyon head has been very rapid in the last few centuries (ca. 10 cm year−1), but has been starved of sand probably because of 20th century damming. Sandy layers appear to represent annual monsoonal floods with a particularly large flood every 50–70 years. This canyon head sediment is also reworked by currents flowing along the canyon axis before being deposited deeper into the canyon. The last sandy sediment to reach the mid-canyon (ca. 1300 m depth) was transported around 7000 year BP at a time of rising sea-levels, and might reflect reworking by the transgression, or local slumping from the walls of the canyon. Dating of the uppermost in a series of terraces in the mid-canyon area suggests that the canyon may have been partly filled and emptied of sediment at least three times since ca. 50 ka. We conclude from the Holocene record that sediment flux to the deep-water fan experiences major buffering, reworking and recycling both on the shelf and within the submarine canyon prior to its deposition, so that turbidite sands in the deep Arabian Sea cannot be used to correlate with climatic or tectonic events onshore over timescales of 103–105 years.