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Abstract

The NW African continental margin is well known for the occurrence of large-scale but infrequent submarine landslides. The aim of this paper is to synthesize the current knowledge on submarine mass wasting off NW Africa with a special focus on the distribution and timing of large landslides. The described area reaches from southern Senegal to the Agadir Canyon. The largest landslides from south to north are the Dakar Slide, the Mauritania Slide, the Cap Blanc Slide, the Sahara Slide and the Agadir Slide. Volumes of individual slides reach several hundreds of cubic kilometres; run-outs are up to 900 km. In addition, giant volcanic debris avalanches are widespread on the flanks of the Canary Islands. All headwall areas are complex with clear indications of multiple failures. The most prominent similarity between all investigated landsides is the existence of widespread glide planes that follow the stratigraphy, which points to weak layers as most important preconditioning factor for the failures. Landslides with volumes larger than 100 m3 are close to being evenly distributed over time, contradicting previous suggestions that landslides off NW Africa occur at periods of low or rising sea level. The risk associated with the landslides off NW Africa, however, is relatively low due to their long recurrence rates.

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