Evidence of changes in sedimentation rate and sediment fabric in a low-oxygen setting: Santa Monica Basin, CA
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Evidence of changes in sedimentation rate and sediment fabric in a low-oxygen setting: Santa Monica Basin, CA


Abstract. The Southern California Bight is adjacent to one of the world's largest urban areas, Los Angeles. As a consequence, anthropogenic impacts could disrupt local marine ecosystems due to municipal and industrial waste discharge, pollution, flood control measures, and global warming. Santa Monica Basin (SMB), due to its unique setting in a low-oxygen and high-sedimentation environment, can provide an excellent sedimentary paleorecord of these anthropogenic changes. This study examined 10 sediment cores, collected from different parts of the SMB between spring and summer 2016, and compared them to existing cores in order to document changes in sedimentary dynamics during the last 250 years, with an emphasis on the last 40 years. The 210Pb-based mass accumulation rates (MARs) for the deepest and lowest oxygen-containing parts of the SMB basin (900–910 m) have been remarkably consistent during the past century, averaging 17.1±0.6 mg cm−2 yr−1. At slightly shallower sites (870–900 m), accumulation rates showed more variation but yield the same accumulation rate, 17.9±1.9 mg cm−2 yr−1. Excess 210Pb sedimentation rates were consistent with rates established using bomb test 137Cs profiles. We also examined 14C profiles from two cores collected in the deepest part of the SMB, where fine laminations are present up to about 450 yr BP. These data indicate that the MAR was slower prior to ∼1900 CE (rates obtained were 9 and 12 mg cm−2 yr−1). The δ13Corg profiles show a relatively constant value where laminations are present, suggesting that the change in sediment accumulation rate is not accompanied by a change in organic carbon sources to the basin. The increase in sedimentation rate towards the Recent occurs at about the time previous studies predicted an increase in siltation and the demise of a shelly shelf benthic fauna on the SMB shelf. X-radiographs show finely laminated sediments in the deepest part of the basin only, with centimeter-scale layering of sediments or no layering whatsoever in shallower parts of the SMB basin. The absence of finely laminated sediments in cores MUC 10 (893 m) and MUC 3 (777 m) suggests that the rate at which anoxia is spreading has not increased appreciably since cores were last analyzed in the 1980s. Based on core top data collected during the past half century, sedimentary dynamics within SMB have changed minimally during the last 40 years. Specifically, mass accumulation rates, laminated sediment fabric, extent of bioturbation and % Corg have not changed. The only parameter that appeared to have changed in the last 450 years was the MAR, with an apparent > 50 % increase occurring between ∼1850 CE and the early 1900s. The post-1900 CE constancy of sedimentation through a period of massive urbanization in Los Angeles is surprising.

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