Istituto di Scienze Marine     
Dalla Valle G., Gamberi F. Pockmarks and seafloor instability in the Olbia continental slope (northeastern Sardinian margin, Tyrrhenian Sea). In: Marine Geophysical Researches, vol. 32 (1-2) pp. 193 - 205. Special Issue: Seafloor mapping for geohazard assessment. SPRINGER, VAN GODEWIJCKSTRAAT 30, 3311 GZ DORDRECHT, NETHERLANDS, 2011.
The seafloor morphology and the subsurface of the continental slope of the Olbia intraslope basin located along the eastern, passive Sardinian margin (Tyrrhenian Sea) has been mapped through the interpretation of high-resolution multibeam bathymetric data, coupled with air-gun and sparker seismic profiles. Two areas, corresponding to different physiographic domains, have been recognized along the Olbia continental slope. The upper slope domain, extending from 500 to 850 m water depth, exhibits a series of conical depressions, interpreted as pockmarks that are particularly frequent in seafloor sectors coincident with buried slope channels. In one case, they are aligned along a linear gully most likely reflecting the course of one of the abandoned channels. The location of the pockmarks thus highlights the importance of the distribution of lithologies within different sedimentary bodies in the subsurface in controlling fluid migration plumbing systems. A linear train of pockmarks is, however, present also away from the buried channels being related to a basement step, linked to a blind fault. Two bathymetric highs, interpreted as possible carbonate mounds, are found in connection with some of the pockmark fields. Although the genetic linkage of the carbonate mounds with seafloor fluid venting cannot be definitively substantiated by the lack of in situ measurements, the possibility of a close relationship is here proposed. The lower slope domain, from 850 m down to the base of the slope at 1,200 m water depth is characterized by a sudden gradient increase (from 2A degrees to 6A degrees) that is driven by the presence of the basin master fault that separates the continental slope from the basin plain. Here, a series of km-wide headwall scars due to mass wasting processes are evident. The landslides are characterized by rotated, relatively undeformed seismic strata, which sometimes evolve upslope into shallow-seated (less than 10 m), smaller scale failures and into headless chutes. Slope gradient may act as a major controlling factor on the seafloor instability along the Olbia continental slope; however, the association of landslides with pockmarks has been recognized in several continental slopes worldwide, thus the role of over-pressured fluids in triggering sediment failure in the Olbia slope can not be discarded. In the absence of direct ground truthing, the geological processes linked to subsurface structures and their seafloor expressions have been inferred through the comparison with similar settings where the interpretation of seafloor features from multibeam data has been substantiated with seafloor sampling and geochemical data.
DOI: 10.1007/s11001-011-9133-1
Subject Pockmark; Submarine channel; Carbonate mound; Submarine landslide; Multibeam; Seafloor morphology; Eastern Sardinian margin

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