Terrigenous sediment supply, marine transport, and depositional processes along tectonically active margins are key to decoding turbidite successions as potential archives of climatic and seismic forcings. Sequence stratigraphic models predict coarse-grained sediment delivery to deep-marine sites mainly during sea-level fall and lowstand. Marine siliciclastic deposition during transgressions and highstands has been attributed to sustained connectivity between terrigenous sources and marine sinks facilitated by narrow shelves. To decipher the controls on Holocene highstand turbidite deposition, we analyzed 12 sediment cores from spatially discrete, coeval turbidite systems along the Chile margin (29°–40°S) with changing climatic and geomorphic characteristics but uniform changes in sea level. Sediment cores from intraslope basins in north-central Chile (29°–33°S) offshore a narrow to absent shelf record a shut-off of turbidite deposition during the Holocene due to postglacial aridification. In contrast, core sites in south-central Chile (36°–40°S) offshore a wide shelf record frequent turbidite deposition during highstand conditions. Two core sites are linked to the Biobío river-canyon system and receive sediment directly from the river mouth. However, intraslope basins are not connected via canyons to fluvial systems but yield even higher turbidite frequencies. High sediment supply combined with a wide shelf and an undercurrent moving sediment toward the shelf edge appear to control Holocene turbidite sedimentation and distribution. Shelf undercurrents may play an important role in lateral sediment transport and supply to the deep sea and need to be accounted for in sediment-mass balances.

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