Quaternary slope development of the western, leeward margin of the Great Bahama Bank

R. H. Rendle*, J. J.G. Reijmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To date, work on the Great Bahama Bank's western, leeward margin has centred chiefly on seismic-scale expressions of carbonate sequences and systems tracts. However, periplatform, slope sediments also exhibit very well developed cyclicity on scales of decimetres to several metres. It is these small-scale, high-frequency cycles within the larger-scale facies successions of the Quaternary which form the main topic of this paper. Previous studies have shown that the small-scale cycles correlate to the orbitally forced, high-frequency sea-level changes. Therefore these cycles should indicate how sea level has affected the slope development and thus platform-margin evolution during this period. Through detailed, high-resolution sequence stratigraphy of the Great Bahama Bank's leeward margin, obtained via δ18O isotope and mineralogical (XRD) analyses, confined by U/Th dating and nannofossil bioevents, a greater understanding of the bedding geometries within the Pleistocene-Holocene seismic sequences and clues as to the nature of the slope development has been achieved. The high-resolution seismic profiles indicate that since the Plio-Pleistocene change in geometry, in which the Great Bahama Bank developed into a rimmed platform, continued steepening and subsequent progradation of the leeward margin has typified slope development during the Quaternary, which is described as an accretionary slope. However, on the basis of our observations we conclude that only the early to lower middle Pleistocene section (isotope stages 45-20) and the Holocene (isotope stage 1) of the leeward margin is accretionary. This indicates that a degree of erosion and/or by-passing has occurred on the leeward margin since the lower middle Pleistocene (isotope stage 19). During the first part of this period (isotope stages 19-12) erosion and/or by-passing occurred in the middle to lower slope regions and toe-of-slope. By the end of the upper middle to late Pleistocene phase (isotope stages 11-2) erosion also occurred on the upper slope. This erosion by currents at the toe-of-slope and oversteepening of the upper and middle slopes have led to back-cutting upslope and resulted in the progressive retreat of the toe-of-slope towards the platform to the east. However, the rise in sea level since the Last Glacial Maximum to its present-day level has allowed high productivity on the platform top during the Holocene and the deposition of a thick sediment wedge on the slope and sedimentation across the entire leeward flanks. This has led to the redevelopment of an accretionary slope and continued westward progradation of the Great Bahama Bank's western, leeward margin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-164
Number of pages22
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2002


  • Accretionary
  • Bahamas
  • Carbonate slope development
  • Erosional
  • Quaternary


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