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Research Technical Report

Variations in Sediment Texture on the Northern Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Continental Shelf

Edwards, B.D. (2002)

Marine Geology 181:83-100.


The storm-protected continental shelf of Monterey Bay, part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, north-central California, is subject to abundant, episodic sediment input from fluvial sources. North of Monterey Bay, conditions of reduced sediment supply combined with the exposed nature of the shelf provide an effective laboratory for studying the contrasting effects of storm- versus fluvial-dominated conditions on modern sedimentation. Textural analyses performed on surface sediment samples collected from more than 380 box cores and MultiCores™ document the existence of a clearly defined mud belt occupying the mid-shelf throughout the region. Inshore sands combined with these mid-shelf muds represent deposits from modern sedimentation processes. In Monterey Bay, where episodic fluvial input from winter storms dominates sedimentation, the mid-shelf mud belt extends across the shelf to the shelf break. North of Monterey Bay, where sediment loads are reduced and both oceanographic and storm processes dominate, the mid-shelf mud belt is bordered by relict sediments occupying the outer shelf. In the study area, mass accumulation rates established by radiochemical studies support the contention that storm-induced along-shelf processes result in northward transport of sediment within the mud belt. The continuity of transport, however, is interrupted by topographic highs which are barriers or inhibitors to sediment transport created by wrench-style tectonics associated with the San Andreas fault system.


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