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Inferring the mass fraction of floc-deposited mud: application to fine-grained turbidites

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Abstract

Fine sediment deposition in the ocean is complicated by the cohesive nature of muds and their tendency to flocculate. The result is disaggregated inorganic grain size (DIGS) distributions of bottom sediment that are influenced by single-grain and floc deposition. This study outlines a parametric model that characterizes bottom sediment DIGS distributions. Modelled parameters are then used to infer depositional conditions that account for the regional variation in the grain sizes deposited by turbidity currents on the Laurentian Fan–Sohm Abyssal Plain, offshore south-eastern Canada. Results indicate that, on the channellized Laurentian Fan, the mass fraction of floc-deposited mud increases only slightly downslope. The small evolution in this fraction arises because sediment concentration and turbulent energy are associated in turbidity currents. On the Sohm Abyssal Plain, however, the mass fraction of floc-deposited mud decreases, probably as a result of lower sediment concentration at this source-distal site. Estimates of the mass fraction of mud deposited as flocs suggest that floc deposition is the dominant mode by which sediment is lost from suspension, although single-grain deposition contributes more to the depositional flux in proximal areas where high energy breaks flocs and in distal areas where low sediment concentration limits floc formation. It is concluded that, throughout the dispersal system, changes in the fraction of flocculated mud deposited from turbidity currents reflect changes in sediment concentration and energy downslope.

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