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Erosional and depositional processes on the submarine flanks of Ontong Java and Nukumanu atolls, western equatorial Pacific Ocean


Watson, SJ and Whittaker, JM and Lucieer, V and Coffin, MF and Lamarche, G, Erosional and depositional processes on the submarine flanks of Ontong Java and Nukumanu atolls, western equatorial Pacific Ocean, Marine Geology, 392 pp. 122-139. ISSN 0025-3227 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2017.08.006


Ontong Java and Nukumanu atolls sit atop Earth's largest oceanic plateau– the Ontong Java Plateau – in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean. In 2014, scientists aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute's RV Falkor mapped the seafloor surrounding Ontong Java Atoll (Solomon Islands) and Nukumanu Atoll (Papua New Guinea) for the first time using multibeam acoustic systems. These and pre-existing data help reveal the evolution of the atolls, which has involved volcanism, erosion, deposition, and carbonate growth. We use the new multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data, together with legacy seismic reflection data, to: (i) qualitatively characterise the submarine flanks of the atolls; (ii) identify broad and fine scale geomorphological features and classify the seafloor environment; (iii) investigate how submarine processes have influenced the morphological evolution of the atolls over geological timescales; and (iv) provide evidence that these atolls have fed sediment downslope to Kroenke Canyon that incises the NE flank of the Ontong Java Plateau.

Submarine erosion is widespread on both atolls, and submarine landslides control, at least in part, the dynamic geomorphology and hence development of both atolls. Channels and gullies are abundant on the flanks of both atolls. Scarps are common on the upper flanks of both atolls, whereas undulating bedforms and crescent shaped bedforms are more common at the foot of the atolls' slopes. The Ontong Java Atoll coastline has widespread bights that appear to be linked to submarine debris deposits downslope. The overall shape of Ontong Java Atoll could result from one or more extensive edifice failure(s), or multiple smaller cones amalgamating to form one island. Active erosion of Nukumanu Atoll is manifested by crescent shaped bedforms, although compared to Ontong Java, Nukumanu has a much less sinuous coastline and more subdued mass wasting. We estimate ∼ 1500 km3 of volcaniclastic sediment has been eroded and transported from Ontong Java and Nukumanu atolls, some of which has likely fed Kroenke Canyon downslope.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:multibeam bathymetry, geomorphology, seafloor classification, erosion, Kroenke Canyon, Ontong Java Plateau, large igneous province
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Geology
Research Field:Marine geoscience
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Watson, SJ (Ms Sally Watson)
UTAS Author:Whittaker, JM (Associate Professor Jo Whittaker)
UTAS Author:Lucieer, V (Dr Vanessa Lucieer)
UTAS Author:Coffin, MF (Professor Mike Coffin)
ID Code:120195
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2017-08-15
Last Modified:2018-05-28

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