This paper has been published in: Mar. Geol. 153, 161-176.
Cyclic variations in the chemical composition of Eastern Mediterranean sediments: A key for understanding sapropel formation
R. Wehausen* and H.-J. Brumsack
Institute of Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) Carl von Ossietzky-University Oldenburg P.O. Box 2503 D-26111 Oldenburg, Federal Republic of Germany. (*Corresponding author: fax ++49-441-798-3404; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
Two Pliocene Mediterranean sediment cores from Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 160, Sites 964 (Pisano Plateau, Ionian Basin) and 967 (lower northern slope of Eratosthenes Seamount, south of Cyprus) have been analyzed for major and minor elements (Si, Ti, Al, Fe, Mg, Ca, K, Ba, Cr, Ni, V, Zn, Zr) by X-ray fluorescence analysis at a depth resolution of 3 to 4 cm (a total of 430 samples). Core 964C-9H comprises five sapropels with up to 9.7% total organic-carbon (TOC), one 2.5-m thick turbidite, and a 50-cm segment of a second turbidite, whereas Core 967B-9H contains eight sapropels with TOC content of up to 6.7%. Cyclic variations in carbonate content and detrital-matter composition are evident at both sites. At Site 964 (Pisano Plateau) terrigenous detrital-matter chemistry reflects periods of stronger Saharan dust input (higher Si/Al- and Zr/Al-ratios) alternating with fluvial input from the northern borderlands (higher Mg/Al-ratios). Cyclicity is not well-expressed at this location because turbidites and winnowing occur. Site 967 (Eratosthenes Seamount) sediments are strongly influenced by discharge from the Nile River during humid periods (low K/Al- and Mg/Al-ratios). At Site 967 sapropels occur only during periods of enhanced Nile discharge with correspondingly lower Si/Al-, Ti/Al-, Mg/Al-, K/Al-, and Zr/Al-ratios. Accumulation rates of carbonate and terrigenous detrital matter were 30% lower during such episodes because of the reduction in eolian input and carbonate production and/or carbonate dissolution. Periodical Ba enrichments, which are not only seen in the sapropels, but in every K/Al minimum, document the association of enhanced bioproductivity and sapropel formation. As calculated from excess Ba concentrations, productivity increased by up to a factor of five during intervals of intensified Nile runoff. Fluviatile discharge seems to be responsible for an enhanced input of nutrients and suspended matter containing low Mg/Al- and K/Al-ratios. Based on organic-carbon concentrations, episodes of sapropel formation lasted at least from 1,000 - 4,000 years at Site 964 and 2,000 - 6,000 years at Site 967. Periods of enhanced bio-productivity, as defined by Ba enrichments, lasted from 8,000 - 12,000 years at Site 967. Episodes of high river discharge and corresponding nutrient input, as well as conditions of sapropel formation, seem to have lasted longer in the eastern part of the basin (Site 967) than at the Pisano Plateau (Site 964).