Evidence of early bottom water current flow after the Messinian Salinity Crisis in the Gulf of Cadiz

Marlies van der Schee, Francisco J. Sierro, Francisco Jiménez-Espejo, F. J. Hernández-Molina, Rachel Flecker, J. A Flores, G. Acton, Marcus H Gutjahr, P Grunert, A. García-Gallardo, N. Andersen

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Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 339 cored multiple sites in the Gulf of Cadiz in order to study contourite deposition resulting from Mediterranean Outflow water (MOW). One Hole, U1387C, was cored to a depth of 865.85 m below seafloor (mbsf) with the goal of recovering the latest Miocene to Pliocene transition in order to evaluate the history of MOW immediately after the end of the Messinian Salinity Crisis. To understand this history, an accurate age model for the succession is needed, but is challenging to construct, because the Miocene–Pliocene boundary is not marked by a clear biostratigraphic event in the Atlantic and coring gaps occur within the recovered stratigraphic record. These limitations are overcome by combining a variety of chronostratigraphic datasets to construct an age-model that fits the currently available age indicators and demonstrates that coring in Hole U1387C did indeed recover the Miocene–Pliocene boundary at about 826 mbsf. This boundary is associated with a distinct and abrupt change in depositional environment. During the latest Messinian, hemipelagic sediments exhibiting precession-induced climate variability were deposited. These are overlain by Pliocene sediments deposited at a much higher sedimentation rate, with much higher and more variable XRF core scanning Zr/Al ratios than the underlying sediment, and that show evidence of winnowing, particle sorting and increasing grain size, which we interpret to be related to the increasing flow of MOW. Pliocene sedimentary cyclicity is clearly visible in both the benthic δ18O record and the Zr/Al data and is probably also precessionally controlled. Two contouritic bigradational sandy-beds are revealed above the third sedimentary cycle of the Pliocene. On the basis of these results, we conclude that sedimentation associated with weak Mediterranean–Atlantic exchange, began in the Gulf of Cadiz virtually at or shortly after the Miocene–Pliocene boundary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-329
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Geology
Early online date11 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Miocene-Pliocene boundary
  • Gulf of Cadiz
  • IODP Expedition 339
  • Mediterranean Outflow Water
  • Messinian Salinity Crisis
  • Contourites


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  • The Gibraltar Corridor: Watergate of the Messinian Salinity Crisis

    Krijgsman, W., Capella, W., Simon, D., Hilgen, F. J., Kouwenhoven, T. J., Meijer, P. T., Sierro, F. J., Tulbure, M. A., van den Berg, B. C. J., van der Schee, M. & Flecker, R., 1 Sep 2018, In: Marine Geology. 403, p. 238-246 9 p.

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