Abstract

The southern Tongue of the Ocean is a 1300-m-deep, flat-floored basin in the Bahamas that receives large amounts of sediment from the carbonate platforms surrounding it on three sides. We have examined five 8–13-m-long piston cores and determined bulk sedimentation rates, turbidite frequency, and turbidite accumulation rates for the past two glacial and interglacial periods. The mean of bulk sedimentation rates is four to six times higher in interglacial periods; average accumulation rates of recognizable turbidites are higher by a factor of 21 to 45, and interglacial turbidite frequency is higher by a factor of 6 to 14. Sediment composition indicates that increased interglacial rates are due to higher accumulation of platform-derived material. Additional data from other Bahamian basins as well as published material from the Caribbean strongly suggest that highstand shedding is a general trend in pure carbonate depositional systems. Carbonate platforms without a siliciclastic component export more material during highstands of sea level when the platform tops are flooded and produce sediment. The response of carbonate platforms to Quaternary sea-level cycles is opposed to that of siliciclastic ocean margins, where sediment is stored on the inner shelf during highstands and passed on to continental rises and abyssal plains during lowstands of sea level.

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