Quaternary sediments in the northwestern part of the Barents Sea and their relation to the underlying Mesozoic bedrock



A sedimentological study of Quaternary sediments from the northwestern part of the Barents Sea shows that their composition is controlled by the underlying Mesozoic bedrock and that very little sediment has been supplied from outside sources.

The Quaternary sediments consist of Pleistocene glacial clays (moraines) and Holocene gravel, sand and mud, derived by erosion of the clay-rich moraines, which again have been derived from underlying Mesozoic rocks.

On the shallow Spitsbergen Bank (30-100 m depth) we find a high energy facies of bioclastic carbonate sand and gravel and lag deposits of Mesozoic rock fragments from the underlying moraine. 14C-datings of the bioclastic carbonates (Molluscs and Barnacles) suggest that soft bottom conditions with Mya truncata prevailed in early Holocene time, succeeded by a hard bottom high energy environment with Barnacles in the last 2000-3000 years. This may be due to a southward movement of the oceanic polar front into the Spitsbergen Bank due to colder climate in Late Holocene (subatlantic) time, which at present day produces strong bottom currents down to 100 m depth.

On the Spitsbergen Bank carbonate sedimentation has succeeded glacial sedimentation as a result of withdrawal of clastic sediment supply in Holocene time and high organic productivity because of upwelling. A similar mechanism may have been operating during earlier glaciations, i.e. in Late Precambrian time to produce an association of glacial and carbonate sediments although the biological precipitation was different at that time. In Late Precambrian time precipitation or carbonate by algaes may have occurred in colder water on the shelves due to higher saturation of carbonate in the sea water.