The Senegal River mud belt: A high-resolution archive of paleoclimatic change and coastal evolution

Jean Nizou*, Till J.J. Hanebuth, David Heslop, Tilmann Schwenk, Luisa Palamenghi, Jan Berend Stuut, Rüdiger Henrich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Fine-grained sediment depocenters on continental shelves are of increased scientific interest since they record environmental changes sensitively. A north-south elongated mud depocenter extends along the Senegalese coast in mid-shelf position. Shallow-acoustic profiling was carried out to determine extent, geometry and internal structures of this sedimentary body. In addition, four sediment cores were retrieved with the main aim to identify how paleoclimatic signals and coastal changes have controlled the formation of this mud depocenter.A general paleoclimatic pattern in terms of fluvial input appears to be recorded in this depositional archive. Intervals characterized by high terrigenous input, high sedimentation rates and fine grain sizes occur roughly contemporaneously in all cores and are interpreted as corresponding to intensified river discharge related to more humid conditions in the hinterland. From 2750 to 1900 and from 1000 to 700. cal a BP, wetter conditions are recorded off Senegal, an observation which is in accordance with other records from NW-Africa. Nevertheless, the three employed proxies (sedimentation rate, grain size and elemental distribution) do not always display consistent inter-core patterns. Major differences between the individual core records are attributed to sediment remobilization which was linked to local hydrographic variations as well as reorganizations of the coastal system.The Senegal mud belt is a layered inhomogeneous sedimentary body deposited on an irregular erosive surface. Early Holocene deceleration in the rate of the sea-level rise could have enabled initial mud deposition on the shelf. These favorable conditions for mud deposition occur coevally with a humid period over NW-Africa, thus, high river discharge. Sedimentation started preferentially in the northern areas of the mud belt. During mid-Holocene, a marine incursion led to the formation of an embayment. Afterwards, sedimentation in the north was interrupted in association with a remarkable southward shift in the location of the active depocenter as it is reflected by the sedimentary architecture and confirmed by radiocarbon dates. These sub-recent shifts in depocenters location are caused by migrations of the Senegal River mouth. During late Holocene times, the weakening of river discharge allowed the longshore currents to build up a chain of beach barriers which have forced the river mouth to shift southwards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-164
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2010


  • Holocene climatic changes
  • Mud depocenters
  • NW-Africa
  • Shelf sedimentation


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