Submarine canyons are observed along both passive and active continental margins, but the factors controlling their complex morphology are still poorly understood. Here, we use high-resolution multibeam bathymetric and 2D seismic data to investigate an area of the northwest South China Sea in which 48 submarine canyons are identified. These previously unstudied submarine canyons incise the continental shelf, being located at a water depth between 200 m and 2200 m. Canyon morphology varies from southwest to northeast, namely in what their length and incision depth are concerned. We therefore divide these canyons into four main types: a) Types A, B and C showing a predominant NW-SE direction, and b) Type D canyons striking to the north. By analysing their internal architectures, we propose that submarine canyons along the northwest South China Sea margin were initiated in the Late Miocene by retrogressive slope failure in response to the gradual build-up of sediment on the continental slope. Differences in sediment supply and fault activity are recognised here as the main factors controlling the morphology of the investigated submarine canyons. In addition, recurrent mass-transport deposits (MTDs) fed sediment from the northwest South China Sea margin into the study area, accelerating the filling of the Central Canyon system, a giant submarine canyon located to the south of the investigated continental slope. The discovery of gas fields (LS22-1, LS17-2) and a gas hydrate drilling zone (GMGS5) in the Central Canyon system proves that MTDs comprise good reservoir intervals. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the origin and development of submarine canyons and highlight the role of sediment supply and tectonic events in controlling canyon morphology.

Morphology and evolution of submarine canyons on the northwest South China Sea margin

Rebesco M;
2022

Abstract

Submarine canyons are observed along both passive and active continental margins, but the factors controlling their complex morphology are still poorly understood. Here, we use high-resolution multibeam bathymetric and 2D seismic data to investigate an area of the northwest South China Sea in which 48 submarine canyons are identified. These previously unstudied submarine canyons incise the continental shelf, being located at a water depth between 200 m and 2200 m. Canyon morphology varies from southwest to northeast, namely in what their length and incision depth are concerned. We therefore divide these canyons into four main types: a) Types A, B and C showing a predominant NW-SE direction, and b) Type D canyons striking to the north. By analysing their internal architectures, we propose that submarine canyons along the northwest South China Sea margin were initiated in the Late Miocene by retrogressive slope failure in response to the gradual build-up of sediment on the continental slope. Differences in sediment supply and fault activity are recognised here as the main factors controlling the morphology of the investigated submarine canyons. In addition, recurrent mass-transport deposits (MTDs) fed sediment from the northwest South China Sea margin into the study area, accelerating the filling of the Central Canyon system, a giant submarine canyon located to the south of the investigated continental slope. The discovery of gas fields (LS22-1, LS17-2) and a gas hydrate drilling zone (GMGS5) in the Central Canyon system proves that MTDs comprise good reservoir intervals. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the origin and development of submarine canyons and highlight the role of sediment supply and tectonic events in controlling canyon morphology.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.14083/2100
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