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Morphology of the Faial Island shelf (Azores): The interplay between volcanic, erosional, depositional, tectonic and mass-wasting processes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



R. Quartau, F. Tempera, N. C. Mitchell, L. M. Pinheiro, H. Duarte, P. O. Brito, C. R. Bates, J. H. Monteiro

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The extents of volcanic island shelves result from surf erosion, which enlarges them, and volcanic progradation, which reduces them. However, mass-wasting, tectonics and sediment deposition also contribute to their morphology. In order to assess the relative significance of these various processes, we have mapped in detail Faial Island's shelf in the Azores archipelago based on interpretation of geophysical and geological data. The nearshore substrates of the island, down to 30-50 m depth, are rocky and covered by volcaniclastic boulder deposits formed by surf action on now-submerged lava flows. Below those depths, sandy and gravel volcaniclastic beds dominate, building clinoforms up to the shelf edge. In some sectors of the coast, prograding lava has narrowed the shelf, but, in contrast to nearby Pico Island, we find fewer submarine-emplaced lavas on the shelf. In this island, we interpret the distance between the coastline and the shelf edge as almost entirely a result of a straightforward competition between surf erosion and lava progradation, in which erosion dominates. Therefore shelf width can be used as a proxy for coastline age as well as for wave energy exposure. The stratigraphy of shelf deposits in boomer seismic data is examined in detail to assess the roles of different sediment sources, accommodation space and wave exposure in creating these deposits. We also show evidence of mass-wasting at the shelf edge and discuss the possible origins of slope instability. Finally, we discuss the contributing role of tectonics for the development of the shelf.



Original languageEnglish
Article numberQ04012
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages30
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
StatePublished - 28 Apr 2012

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