Constraining sediment transport to deep marine basins through submarine channels: The Levant margin in the Late Cenozoic

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    Communicated by D.J.W. Piper

    isclest explanation is to relate them to a uvial system that arrived from Arabia at

    bate regarding the age of the exceptionally thick sedimentary sequence deposition occurred in the Late Eocene when the sedimentation rate

    urce-to-sink scenariosge amounts of terrige-sin in the Late EoceneEgyptian continental

    Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226

    Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

    Marine G

    e ls2010; Steinberg et al., 2011) and challenge other interpretations claimingthick Cretaceous (Peck, 2008) or PaleoceneEocene (Gardosh andDruckman, 2006; Roberts and Peace, 2007) sequences. Consequently,the Late Cenozoic deep-water sediments of the Levant Basin became agreat interest to the industry as well as to the scientic community. To

    and dispersal?A priori, there are at least two feasible so

    marked by different arrows in Fig. 1. (1) The larnous material that began entering the Levant Baoriginated in Africa and was transported via thebelow the Messinian salt layer. Three wells were drilled since 2009 inthe deep Levant Basin: Tamar, Dalit, and Leviathan, located 90, 40, and135 km offshore Israel, respectively (Fig. 1). All threewells are consistentwith the seismic interpretation of an exceptionally thick Late Cenozoicsection (Gardosh et al., 2008; Gvirtzman et al., 2008; Gardosh et al.,

    in the deep Levant Basin accelerated by nearly 20 times (Steinberget al., 2011, Fig. 2). This fundamental observation raises fundamentalquestions. Why did the sedimentation rate increases? Where did thesediments come from? Where are the ancient sedimentary pathwaysinto and in the deep sea?What was themode of sedimentary transportunderstand the depositional history of these swere transported to the deep basin hundredsthe ancient coastline (the reconstructed OligocFig. 1), the paleogeography of the circum eastethat time must be understood.

    Corresponding author.1 Present address: MOL Oil and Gas, Plc, Hungary.

    0025-3227/$ see front matter 2013 Elsevier B.V. All ri nally settled the de-

    Although drilling proved the existence of siliciclastic deposits downto the Late Oligocene (public releases, Noble Energy Inc.), interpretationof seismic data indicates that the signicant change in the nature ofDrilling in the deep Levant Basin offshore IsKeywords:Levant continental marginLevant Basinsubmarine channelssubmarine canyonsstratigraphysediment supply

    1. IntroductionDead Sea valley. Interestingly, however, very little sedimentation occurred along the Levant continental marginbefore the Pliocene in spite of its stepped structure that provided much space for accommodation. The only waythat sediments could have bypassed the continentalmargin and arrive at the deep basinwithout being trapped inthe middle is through submarine channels that crossed the continental margin. Here we explore this possibilityusing 3-D stratigraphicmodeling techniques that quantify the sediment load and thewater discharge required toll the basin by pushing enough sediment through submarine channels. We show that such a scenario requires auvial system in the order of the largest rivers that exist today on earth in terms of drainage area and water dis-charge. Alternatively, it requires extreme hydraulic conditions in terms of diffusion coefcients and an elevateddrainagebasin that could not have existed in the study area.We therefore challenge the traditional viewof Arabiaas themain source for Oligo-Miocene deposits in the Levant Basin and suggest that the basinwasmainly fed by aproto-Nile system that transported clastic material to the North African margin and then farther east by oceancurrents. In a wider view we demonstrate how numerical modeling can constrain sediment transport throughsubmarine channels as a function of basin geometry and hydraulic conditions, and how paleogeographic knowl-edge can be combined with current data on world rivers to evaluate if modeling results are plausible.

    2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.Received in revised form 21 October 2013Accepted 27 October 2013

    that time. This system predated the modern (Pliocene) Nile River supply and existed until captured by theReceived 26 September 2012The recent world-class gas dorigin. Apparently, the simpConstraining sediment transport to deep msubmarine channels: The Levant margin in

    Z. Gvirtzman a,, I. Csato b,1, D. Granjeon c

    a Geological Survey, Israelb Collin College, USAc IFP Energies nouvelles, France

    a b s t r a c ta r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:

    j ourna l homepage: www.ediments and how sandsof kilometers away fromene coastline is shown inrn Mediterranean area at

    ghts reserved.rine basins throughhe Late Cenozoic

    overies in Early Miocene sand units offshore Israel raises the question of their


    ev ie r .com/ locate /margeomargin that ~25 Ma later (Pliocene) evolved into the Nile Rivercone; or (2) originated in Arabia (plus the Sinai Peninsula?) and wastransported via the Levant continental margin.

    The existence of a pre-Pliocene east-to-west transport system,which reached Israel from Arabia across the area that eventually devel-oped into the Dead Sea rift valley and continued farther west to theLevant Basin, has been well established. The earliest indication forsuch transport is turbidite deposits found within Oligocene outcrops

  • 13Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226of the Lower Saqiye Group in the Judea foothills (Buchbinder et al.,2005) and within Late Eocene deposits of the lowermost part of theSaqiye Group in the subsurface of the coastal plain (Buchbinder et al.,2005). Noteworthy, these turbidites were transported farther to theLevant Basin through deep submarine channels (Druckman et al.,1995; Gardosh and Druckman, 2006; Gardosh et al., 2008; Bar, 2009)that were incised in the Israeli continental margin in the Late Eocene

    Fig. 1. Location map with present topography and mainMiddle East rivers. Reconstructed OligoLevant Basin occurred while the north Arabian Platformwas still under water, excluding the podrainage directions. Estimated area that had drained to the Levant Basin ismarked by light gray.the location of the model of Fig. 5. Red line outlines the location of the geological section of Fig

    Fig. 2. Geological cross section from the inland Levant region to the Eratosthenes Seamount. Nthan the deeper part (gray) which was deposited during 250 Ma (Triassic). Also note the Lateblock and very little over the intermediate margin block that was buried only by the topmost uFrom Steinberg et al. (2011); location in Figs. 1 and 3.(El-Arish, Aq, Ashdod, Hanna, and another unnamed canyons markedin Fig. 3).

    Ten to fteen million years later, the nature of the transport fromeast changed. In the Early Miocene, large amounts of coarse siliciclasticsediments (Hazeva Formation) transported from distances of hundredsof kilometers were trapped in several inland basins (Garfunkel andHorowitz, 1966; Zilberman, 1991; Calvo and Bartov, 2001). The ner

    cene shoreline shown by a thick broken line indicates that the extensive deposition in thessibility of sediment supply from the northeast. Black arrows schematically show expectedRecent gas wells in Oligo-Miocene sand units aremarked by red dots. Red rectanglemarks. 2. Paleogeography after Steinberg et al. (2011).

    ote that the Late Cenozoic section (red colors) representing 35 Ma of deposition is thickerEoceneMiocene section (lowest red unit) was deposited mostly in the deep Levant Basinnit (Pliocene to recent) after the Messinian Salinity Crisis (spatial details in Figs. 34).

  • 14 Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226terrigenous materials were carried farther to the sea, from where thene clasts were further transported to the deep basin through thesame submarine channels that were partly lled in the Oligocene andre-incised in the Early Miocene (Druckman et al., 1995).

    Interestingly, however, the amount of sediments trapped alongthe Levant continental margin during the 30 Ma period from the LateEocene to the endof theMiocene is only a fewhundredmeters,whereasin the deep basin a nearly 4 km-thick section accumulated at thesame time (excluding the 1.5 km thick Messinian salt layer; Fig. 2after Steinberg et al., 2011). This fundamental observation emphasizesthe difculty of an easterly supply scenario that requires bypassing ofthe continental margin and jumping over two morphological steps atthe sea oor without being trapped in between (see steps in Fig. 3 andmore details below). The only possible transport mechanism for sucha scenario is through the submarine channels that crossed the twosteps and connected the ancient continental shelf (today's coastalplain and foothills, Fig. 3) with the deep basin.

    Fig. 3.Map of the study area that combines the present topography in the eastwith a subsurfaceEarly Oligocene relief, highlighting morpho-structural steps and incised canyons (discussed in tinland side of the rectangular approximately follows the Oligocene shoreline today located at thBar et al. (2013) based on Steinberg et al. (2011) with minor modications in its eastern paGvirtzman et al. (2008). Black lines are faults of the Continental Margin Fault Zone, from GvirtThe purpose of this study is to examine this possibility. Utilizing a 3-Dstratigraphic model, we constrain the sediment load and the waterdischarge required to transport enough sediment into the deep basinthrough the submarine channels. We show that the water dischargerequired for such a scenario is unreasonably high, thus indicating theneed to consider a major source from the southwest (i.e., from Africa).

    While the practical implications of our modeling are relevant to re-vealing sediment pathways and tracing potential reservoirs, its widerimplications relate to paleo-climate and paleo-geography during an im-portant period inwhich the ancient Tethys Oceanwas shrinking and themarine gateways connecting the Persian Gulf and the MediterraneanSea closed.

    Moreover, the question of how much sediment can be transportedthrough submarine channels, how far it reaches, and how widely it isdistributed is a fundamental problem in understanding lowstandsystem tracts and their dependency on tectonics and climate. If theshelf-to-basin relief is relatively low as in many mature passive

    structuralmap of the base Saqiye Group in thewest. Thismap approximately describes theext). Broken rectangular line indicates location of themodel shown in Fig. 5. Note that thee Judea westernmountain front (Gvirtzman et al., 2011). The structuralmap is taken fromrt from Fleischer and Gafsou (2003). Outlines of the El-Arish Canyon are modied afterzman et al. (2008).

  • 15Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226continental margins, progradational development oceanwards is likely.But when the shelf-to-basin relief is steep and particularly when it con-sists of high morphological steps, as in the reactivated Levant margin(Gvirtzman et al., 2008), progradation of the shelf is difcult and moreaggradational and buildup patterns are likely (Hadler-Jacobsen et al.,2007). Another important factor is the width of the continental shelf;wide shelves capture considerable amounts of coarse grain sedimentswhile narrow shelves are more easily bypassed. Therefore, the distal,deep marine deposits along narrow shelves will typically containcoarse-grained fans while deep marine deposits along wide shelf willcontain mostly ne-grained deposits (Bouma, 2000).

    In this context the pre-Messinian Levant continental margin ischallenging. It consisted of a relatively wide block that had separatedthe narrow ancient continental shelf (today's foothill area) from thedeep Levant Basin (Fig. 3). This intermediate block could have capturedcourse grained sediments, but two steepmorphological steps that bound-ed it from both sides (details below) may have prevented lowstandand highstand progradational patterns. Here we explore whether thesand-prone, gas-rich, deep marine fans were fed by uvial material thathad bypassed this challenging region or, alternatively, were fed fromelsewhere.

    In addition to sea-level stand and margin physiography, we notethat the Oligo-Miocene sequence we study here was deposited duringand mostly after the EoceneOligocene transition that changed theearth's climate from a greenhouse regime to an icehouse regime(Zachos et al., 2001; Miller et al., 2005; Fielding et al., 2008). According-ly, the volume of sediment supply into the basin, the timing and the sizeof slope failure events that produce debris ows and turbidity currents(Morehead et al., 2001) may have all been inuenced by climate.

    To constrain the amount of sediments that crossed the Levant conti-nentalmargin at that time, we utilize numerical modeling tools that canpredict stacking patterns as a function of basin geometry and hydraulicconditions. The results are then compared to present day uvial systemsin various climate conditions and relief.

    2. Geological background

    2.1. Regional setting

    The closure of the Neo-Tethys since the Late Eocene was accompa-nied by a signicant change in the paleogeography of the Middle Eastregion. Along with the collision in the Bitlis-Zagros thrust zone, anextensive area previously submerged under water for tens of millionsof years, rose above sea level (Adams et al., 1983; Buchbinder, 1996;Ziegler et al., 2001). The exposure of this landmass, hundreds of kilome-ters to the south of the collisional plate boundary, created the continen-tal region today occupied by Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon anddisconnected the Mediterranean basin from the Mesopotamian basin.As a result, the contours of Arabia changed and shorelines that hadpreviously extended from Egypt eastwards towards the Persian Gulfchanged their course northwards towards Turkey along the presentday Mediterranean coasts (Gvirtzman et al., 2011). These processeswere accompanied by the formation of an Oligocene erosional surfacewhose remnants have been described in Sinai, southern Israel, andJordan (Picard, 1943; Garfunkel and Horowitz, 1966; Zilberman, 1991;Bar, 2009; Avni et al., 2012) and by the formation of a drainage systemtowards the eastern Mediterranean.

    Approximately at the same time, farther to the south, East Africawasalso uplifting along with the vast volcanism that accompanied the RedSea opening (Bosworth et al., 2005, and references therein). This inlanduplift provided another major source for sediments to the easternMediterranean. However, differing from the Israeli margin, the muchwider uvial system in northern Egypt prograded the coastline ofNorth Africa hundreds of kilometers northwards (Fig. 1, Salem, 1976;Said, 1981; Burke, 1996), indicating that the African source of sediments

    was much larger than the Arabian source.The depositional expression of the vast amounts of ne clasts thatbegan entering the basin in the Late Eocene and Early Oligocene wasa shift from pelagic chalks (Avedat Group) that had characterized the~50 Ma of the SantonianMid Eocene, to hemipelagic marls of theSaqiye Group (Gvirtzman and Buchbinder, 1978), which have prevailedsince. In addition, sedimentation rates in the deep basin increased from~5 m/Ma in the Paleocene to ~100 m/Ma in the Late EoceneOligocene(Steinberg et al, 2011).

    2.2. Basin structure and step formation

    The Neo-Tethys closure and Red Sea opening were accompaniedby reactivation of the Levant continental margin (Gvirtzman et al.,2008; Gvirtzman and Steinberg, 2012) after being passive for morethan 100 Ma. Three morpho-structural steps, formed by transpression,reshaped the moderate, gradually westward descending seaoor.These steps are evident in themap of Fig. 3, which combines the presenttopography in the east with a subsurface structural map in the west.We used the nearly base Oligocene structural map as a proxy for theEarly Oligocene relief, which was controlled by the newly formedsteps. The eastern step, which accentuated an old Syrian Arc structure(Bar, 2009) forms the present-day Judea Western Mountain Front Step(WMFS). The central step, now buried under Neogene sedimentsbelow the present day coastal plain of Israel (CPS, Coastal Plain Step),accentuated the Cretaceous continental slope (Bar, 2009). The westernstep, bounding the Levant Basin on the east approximately below thepresent day continental slope, vertically accentuated a SantonianEocene, 10 km-wide fault zone. This step was termed by Gvirtzmanet al. (2008) as the Levant Continental Margin Fault Zone (CMFZ) andis interpreted as the incipient northwest plate boundary of Arabiathat later jumped inland to the Dead Sea Transform (Gvirtzman andSteinberg, 2012).

    The formation of steep morphological steps at the bottom of the searapidly caused a prominent incision by submarine canyons. TheAshdod,Aq, El-Arish andHanna canyons (Fig. 3), which are each 12002000 mdeep (Druckman et al., 1995; Buchbinder et al., 2005; Bar, 2009),approximately indicate the heights of the morpho-structural stepsthat interrupted the previously gradually deepening sea oor.

    In the following OligoceneMiocene times, massive sedimentationin the deeper Levant Basin diminished the morphological expressionof the CMFZ (Steinberg et al., 2011), while the CPS continued to domi-nate sea-oor morphology for much longer. During the MessinianSalinity Crisis (e.g., Hsu et al., 1973) the level of the Mediterranean Seadrastically dropped and deep canyons were incised again across thecontinental margin. However, the Messinian incision was not as deepas the former Late EoceneEarly Oligocene incision and did not reachthe canyon bottoms, as evident by the thick Oligo-Miocene sectionspreserved in the canyons (e.g., Druckman et al., 1995). Finally, duringthe Pliocene Nile-derived sediments buried the coastal plain step.These sediments extended the continental shelf westwards and builtthe present-day continental slope.

    2.3. Late Tertiary sedimentation and depositional patterns

    The increased sedimentation rate since the Late Eocene formedseveral stratigraphic sequences as described by Steinberg et al. (2011).The rst sedimentary package that lled the basin during the ~13 Maof the Late EoceneOligocene period accumulated almost solely in thedeep basin with an apparent depocenter located in the southwesternpart of the study area (Fig. 4a). Differing from the gradual northernand western thinning, this unit abruptly thins to the east from a 1500-m-thick section at the base of the CMFZ step to a thin or absent sectionon the intermediate block. Sediments of this age also lled a canyonthat incised the western step (Hanna-1 well; Gardosh et al., 2008; Bar,2009), indicating canyon incision that either predates or is coeval with

    this package.

  • 16 Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226The second sedimentary package is composed ofMiocene sediments(Fig. 4b) below the Messinian evaporites, and represents a period of~16 Ma and thins from ~2000 m in the deep basin to a few hundredmeters along the continental margin. This thinning pattern indicatesthat the CMFZ step still existed in the Miocene, though gradually disap-peared. The gradual thinning of the Mid-Late Miocene unit in Fig. 3(not shown separately in Fig. 4) indicates that at the end of theMiocenethe CMFZ stepwas completely buried and inactive; instead, shortwave-length thickness variations documents Miocene folding.

    The third sedimentary section includes the rapid deposition of a thicksalt layer during theMessinian Salinity Crisis (Fig. 4c),when theAtlanticMediterranean gateway was restricted (reviewed by Ryan, 2009). Thislayer gradually thins landward from ~2 km in the Levant Basin until al-most completely pinching out at the proximaldistal boundary (Bertoniand Cartwright, 2005). East of this point, the Messinian evaporites forma thin layer that is poorly imaged on seismic data.

    The fourth and uppermost unit is composed of Pliocenerecentsediments (Fig. 4d). Unlike older units, which are thicker in the LevantBasin, this unit is substantially thicker along the continental margin.Offshore Egypt, this unit builds the Nile Delta, reaching a thicknessof ~4 km (Said, 1981; Segev et al., 2006). Offshore Israel, this unit

    Fig. 4. Isopachmaps from Steinberg et al. (2011) based on seismic interpretation and well data.cene units of maps a and b were mostly deposited in the deep Levant Basin and very little aloncompletely lls the Jaffa Basin (Gvirtzman et al., 2008) and obscuresthe CPS under the present-day continental shelf.

    In this study, we focus on the rst two packages deposited between37 Ma (beginning of Late Eocene) and 7 Ma (just before the MessinianSalinity Crisis). At that time sediments were transported to the LevantBasin both from Africa and from Arabia. Theoretically, one would wantto be able to distinguish between the relative contributions of the twosources. However, given that there are no geological constraints forrealistic modeling, we compromise with being able to eliminate thepossibility that the eastern source was the major source. As explainedabove, the only way to explain basin lling by an easterly system thatbypassed the continental margin is by massive transport limited to thesubmarine canyons. According to this scenario (Gardosh et al., 2008),sediments were transported through the canyons without being dis-persed before reaching their nal destination. The question examinedhere is whether or not such canyons are capable of transporting therequired amount of sediments.

    In what follows we begin with showing that common or normalconditions are certainly not enough to transport the required amountsof material and that canyons overow with much sedimentation alongthe continental margin, in contrast to observations. We proceed with

    Pliocene sediments offshore Egypt from Segev et al. (2006). Note that Late Eocene to Mio-g the continental margin.

  • showing that increasing the water discharge through the canyons toextreme values or alternatively using extremely high diffusion coef-cients could solve the problem. Though such conditions cause veryrapid ow of sediments without their being caught in the middle, theyare unrealistic.

    3. Method: principles of forward modeling by Dionisos

    Dionisos is a 3D stratigraphic forward model aiming to simulategeometry and facies of sedimentary units on a regional spatial scalefrom several tens to hundreds of kilometers and of geological time scalesfrom tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of years (Granjeon, 1996;Granjeon and Joseph, 1999, Granjeon and Wolf, 2007; Granjeon, 2009).This numerical model accounts for accommodation, sediment supplyand sediment transport.

    Since the early work of Culling (1960), and Carson and Kirkby(1972), diffusion laws have been used in geomorphology and geologyto represent large-scale, spatially averaged transport of sediment bycreep, overland ow and channel ow processes. The concept of diffu-sive sediment transport states that the transport capacity of a waterow is proportional to the local basin slope and water discharge. Thediffusion equationwasderived fromempirical and conceptual hydraulicequations by Begin et al. (1981) and Paola et al. (1992). It has beenwidely used in various forms tomodel sediment transport along alluvialfans, rivers and oodplains (Begin et al., 1981; Murray and Paola, 1994;Parker et al., 1998; Coulthard, 1999), mountains and foreland basins

    2004; Cantero, 2007). But these high-resolution and physically basedmodels are difcult to implement for large areas over geological timescales. Therefore, for long-term modeling of a series of turbidity ows,the diffusive sediment transport approach was used in many studies(Kaufman et al., 1991; Steckler et al., 1999; Schlager and Adams, 2001;van Heijst et al., 2001; Lai and Capart, 2007; Mitchell and Huthnance,2008; Gerber et al., 2009; Spinewine et al., 2011).

    Following these studies, Dionisos extends the diffusion equation usedin uvial environments to marine environments. In other words, ourlandscape model is used as a seascape model to simulate large-scaleand long-term evolution of turbiditic complexes. We note, however,that this approach cannot be applied for modeling an individualturbidity current ow, where the assumption of equilibrium betweenbuoyancy driving forces and friction forces is not valid.

    Another issue that should be treated carefully is the connectionbetween the uvial and submarine systems. As rivers reach the seatheir ability to transport sediments suddenly decreases and coarsegrains immediately settle down to form a delta. In some cases the re-maining water ow is still denser than the seawater and a hyperpycnalow continues downstream plunging down the seabed and givingbirth to density currents (Bates, 1953; Mulder and Alexander, 2001).However, this process is usually not continuous. Only in rare cases,where steeply sloping canyons enter the river mouth or estuary, river-fed hyperpycnal ows traverse the shelves without interruption(Wright and Friedrichs, 2006). In most cases, sediments temporarilysettle down on the delta front or inner shelf and only later they are


    17Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226(Jordan and Flemings, 1991; Tucker and Slingerland, 1994).Since the Late 1990s and early 2000s when high resolution bathy-

    metric studies began showing that seabedmorphology is curiously sim-ilar to lowland landscapes (Adams et al, 1998; Galloway, 1998; Schlagerand Adams, 2001; Mitchell and Huthnance, 2008), laws of landscapeevolution have been extended to the seascape to simulate progradationof deltas (Kenyon and Turcotte, 1985) and continental shelves (Jordanand Flemings, 1991; Kaufman et al, 1991; Granjeon, 1996; Rivenaes,1997; Mitchell and Huthnance, 2008).

    A particularly challenging task is to model turbidity currents bynumerically solving the NavierStockes equations for conservationof momentum, water, and sediment (e.g. Parker et al., 1986; Bradford,1996; Skene et al., 1997; Syvitski and Hutton, 2001; Kassem and Imran,

    Fig. 5.Model setup including three structural steps that represent the Early Oligocene steps

    assumed to exist at 37 Ma. Abbreviations: WMFthe Judea western mountain front; CPSthetransported downslope by gravity-driven processes.In other words, the uvial discharge either continues seaward

    immediately as hyperpycnalow, or deposits rst at themouth of riversas a buoyant sediment plug. In the latter case, the progressive increaseof sediment load eventually causes slope failure and turbidity currents.As the detailed modeling of the transformation of uvial discharge intoeither dense bottom currents or hyperpycnal ows is far beyond thescope of this paper, we assumed that all uvial discharge continues sea-ward as gravitational ows, either fed directly by rivers as hyperpycnalow, or by slope failures.

    Following the classical approach used in landscape evolution model(Willgoose et al., 1991; Tucker and Slingerland, 1994), Dionisoscombines two large-scale processes: a hill-slope creeping and a faster

    n in Fig. 3. Two submarine canyons, conduits of sediments transported from the east,were

    coastal plain step; CMFZthe continental margin fault zone step.

  • water discharge driven transport (Willgoose et al., 1991; Tucker andSlingerland, 1994). The former is simulated by a linear slope-driven dif-fusion equationwhere the transport is proportional with the gradient ofthe slope. The later is simulated by a non-linearwater- and slope-drivendiffusion equation. The combination of these two transports laws leadsto the following sediment transport equation:

    Qs Ks KwQnwSm1


    where Qs is the sediment ux [km2/year]; h [m] is the topographic ele-vation; Ks and Kw are the diffusion coefcient respectively for the slowcreeping transport and the faster water-driven process [km2/year];Qw is dimensionless local water discharge at the cell (that is the localwater discharge normalized by 100 m3/( []; S is the local gradi-ent of the basin slope []; n andmare constant, usually between 1 and 2.

    Sediment is assumed to be composed of a nite number of grain-sizefractions. Transport equation andmass conservation are applied to eachgrain-size fraction, leading to the denition of the local sedimentationor erosion rate. Sedimentation occurs at a point in the basin if the trans-port capacity decreases (either because the slope decreases or thewater ow spreads). Contrarily, erosion occurs if the transport capacityincreases.

    The stratigraphic architecture of a sedimentary basin, such as theLevant Basin, is controlled by the transport of sediment, but also by theaccommodation space and the supply of sediment. The accommodationis determined by basement motion (subsidence/uplift) and sea-levelvariation together. The same stratigraphy may be produced in morethan one way, for example, the same accommodation may be createdby sea level as well as regional subsidence, and the resulting stratigraphymay look the same, although the two histories and causal processesare profoundly different. Forward modeling provides the possibility of

    running a series of scenarios of possible basin histories, providing theuser with a number of outputs to analyze and test against geological con-straints. Following this procedure, likely and unlikely sets of parameters,i.e., scenarios of geological history may be determined.

    4. Model setup

    In order to focus on the capability of submarine canyons to transportenough sediments toll the Levant Basin as observed, a simplied rectan-gular model, 300 km 265 km, was built in a way that one of its sidesschematically represents the Levant continental margin (model shownin Fig. 5, locationmarked in Figs. 1 &3). At that side of themodel (approx-imately east), three morphological steps were introduced in a way thattheir sizes resemble the real paleo-bathymetric steps formed in the LateEoceneEarly Oligocene. For simplicity, the steps in themodel are parallelwith no along-strike variations.

    As described above, the morphological steps played a crucial role incontrolling sediment transport paths and largely contributed to the thick-ness variations across the Levant (Bar et al., 2013). At 37 Ma the JudeaWestern Mountain Front step was 500 m high, the coastal plain stepwas 1000 m, and the Continental Margin Fault Zone was a 1500 m fea-ture. At that time, submarine canyons already crossed the steps andtransported sediments into the deep basin (Fig. 3). Thus, we introducedto the initial simplied rectangular model two canyons with dimensionssimilar to the real canyons (Fig. 5).

    From the initial conditions shown by Fig. 5 onwards, the Judeanupland uplifted while the Levant Basin subsided. These vertical motionswere introduced into the model by three simplied elevation maps ofthe 37 Ma sea oor (base Saqiye Group), which is considered as themodel's basement. The three maps are represented by the three crosssections of Fig. 6a (based on Bar et al., 2013) with no along-strikevariations: (a) the 37 Ma surface before its burial (sea oor); (b) the


    18 Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226Fig. 6. (a) Schematic cross sections representing the vertical motions introduced into the mformity surface). Blue37 Ma; Yellow16 Ma; Blackpresent. (b) Reconstructed cross se

    thick section and 1900 m of water column at the western side of the basin and very little depol by three elevation maps of the model's basement (that is, the base Saqiye Group uncon-n for 7 Ma showing what simulation results should look like, that is approximately 4 km

    sition nearshore.

  • 37 Ma surface at its buried position in 16 Ma; and (c) the 37 Ma surfaceat its a present day position. From thesemaps, we dened the subsidencehistory of the basement by linear interpolation of themotion. Compac-tion was simulated using burial depthporosity curves = o ez/D,where is the porosity of the sediment, z the burial depth,o is the ini-tial porosity (at the time of the deposition), and D a constant characteriz-ing the decay of the porosity.o and D are equal to 20% and 2000 m, and80% and 500 m, for sand and shale respectively. An Airy-type isostasywas assumed with no exural forces included. For sea-level changes,the Haq et al. (1987) eustatic curve was used.

    Our modeling strategy is to infer the sediment inux from thevolume of the sedimentary section and the duration of its deposition.Then, we deduce frommodeling thewater discharge needed to producethe pattern of deposition. The challenge in our case is to get a parameterset (sediment and water supplies) that (1) transports sedimentsthrough the submarine channels into the distal basin, (2) with onlyminor deposition along the proximal continental margin (Fig. 6b). Asdescribed below such a pattern of transport and deposition requireshuge values of water discharge, the feasibility of which is examined inlight of data about drainage area and relief.


    19Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226Fig. 7. Examples of unsuccessful (right-hand side) and successful (left-hand side) modelsfour snapshots for 36 Ma, 23 Ma, 16 Ma, and 7 Ma. The bottom panels at 7 Ma are compof the sediments were caught nearshore in contrast with the geological data (Fig. 6b). h is

    deep basin as required by the geological constraints.g a common values of diffusion coefcient K(sand) = 0.2 km2/ka. Each model representsto geological constraints as shown in Fig. 6b. d is considered unsuccessful because mostsidered successful because most of the sediments were transported and deposited in the

  • Our modeled cube contains 4 km thick section in the deep part ofthe basin, which is 265 km long (NS) and 175 km wide (EW) plus a0.3 km thick section over the intermediate block, which is 265 kmlong and 75 km wide. This totals (185,500 + 5962 km3) 191,462 km3

    deposited during 30 Ma, that is Qs = 6383 km3/Ma. For simplicity weuse a round number of 6500 km3/Ma. Note that at present themodeledsection (base Late Eocene to base Messinian) is only ~3.6 km thick andthe value of 4 km approximates the decompacted thickness of that sec-tion prior to its burial by a ~2 km thick Messinianpresent section.

    In addition, minor amounts of carbonates were also added. Weassume that while siliciclastic supply from the emerging continents in-creased dramatically at 37 Ma, carbonate production remained in itsprevious rate. Based on the thickness and duration of the Santonian toMiddle Eocene section (Steinberg et al., 2011) we used a productionrate of 10 m/Ma for pelagic carbonates (1004000 m depth range)and 50 m/Ma for platform carbonates (090 m depth range). Withthese rates during the 30 Ma period modeled, pelagic carbonatescontribute 300 m to the 4300 m thick section modeled; and platformal

    usinto g

    20 Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226Fig. 8. Examples of unsuccessful (right-hand side) and successful (left-hand side) modelssnapshots for 36 Ma, 23 Ma, 16 Ma, and 7 Ma. The bottom panels at 7 Ma are compared

    as explained in the captions of Fig. 7.g extremely high diffusion coefcient K(sand) = 20 km2/ka. Each model represents foureological constraints as shown in Fig. 6b. d and h are unsuccessful and successful results

  • carbonates, which are limited by the available accommodation space, areeven less important. However, for completeness purposes, we includedthese components in the model.

    The diffusion approach for uvial (Paola et al., 1992) and marine(Kaufman et al., 1991; Steckler et al., 1999; van Heijst et al., 2001; Laiand Capart, 2007; Gerber et al., 2009; Spinewine et al., 2011) transporthas been validated both theoretically and empirically, yet, nding nu-merical values for parameters in real cases is still a challenge. The diffu-sion coefcient depends on a number of factors, such as grain size,lithology, roundness, water depth, water discharge, vegetation, rivertype, etc., that are difcult to quantify. Not surprisingly, the values ofthe coefcient vary greatly by case study. To list a few: 1.06.9 km2/ka(Paola et al., 1992); 0.051.10 km2/ka (Rivenaes, 1992); 0.20.6 km2/ka(den Bezemer et al., 2000); 0.01 km2/ka (Gawthorpe et al., 2003);3.9 1061.6 107 km2/ka (Burgess et al., 2006). In those cases theauthors used a linear diffusion model, however, if a non-linear model(the sediment ux is proportional to a power of the water discharge)is applied, the coefcient may become much lower than in the linearcase.

    Since transport distance highly depends on the diffusion coefcientsand since we are interested in marine transport, we ran simulationswith Kw values extending over three orders of magnitude. For each Kwvalue, we gradually increased the water discharge, from 100 m3/s to100,000 m3/s, until reaching a stratigraphicmodel thatt the geologicalconstraints. Furthermore, we assumed that clastic sediments arecomposed of sand and shale particles. In all cases Kw,shale was set as 5times Kw,sand.

    5. Simulation results

    Fig. 7 presents a non-successful and successful simulations usingKw, sand = 0.2 km2/ka, which is a reasonable value adopted from the

    literature (Rabineau et al., 2005; Burgess et al., 2006; Alzaga-Ruizet al., 2009; Somme et al., 2009 and Csato et al., 2012). The simulationthat fails to produce a model that ts the geological constraints (left-hand side of Fig. 7) is the one that was run with Qw = 2830 m3/s(the water discharge of the present-day Nile River). The rst snapshot(Fig. 7a) taken only 1 Ma after startup already shows thatwith these pa-rameters sediments are not transported to the distal basin, but rather,get stuck close to the shoreline, where they build a progradationaldelta. Accordingly, the nal result at 7 Ma (Fig. 7d) is very differentfrom the observed stratigraphy.

    The simulation that does produce a successful model is the onethat was run with Qw = 52,000 m3/s. Only with this extremely highwater discharge value (see Discussion section below) are sedimentstransported all the way through the submarine channels to the deepbasin. The nal result of this model at 7 Ma (Fig. 7h) ts the geologicaldata, that is, a ~4 km thick section in the deep basin with a watercolumn of 1.9 km and only a few hundred meters of section over theintermediate block.

    Examples for extremely large Kw, sand = 20 km2/ka (two ordersof magnitude larger than the previous example) are shown in Fig. 8,which also presents non-successful and successful models. For Qw =100 m3/s the model fails to meet the observations (the left-hand sideof Fig. 8), whereas for Qw = 2830 m3/s (present-day Nile River) agood match with the geological constraints is achieved.

    The results of the models of Figs. 78 plus the results of many othersimulations are summarized in Figs. 910. Fig. 9 demonstrates thestratigraphy of the nal model at 7 Ma as a function of K and Qw.Note that for Kw, sand = 0.2 km2/ka most of the sediments accumulateat the nearshore zone even for a large Qw of 10,000 m3/s; similarly forQw = 100 m3/s, sediments are stuck nearshore even for unreasonablyhigh Kw, sand of 20 km2/ka. Detailed analysis of model sensitivity tovarying K's and Qw's is further shown in Fig. 10, which plots the water


    21Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226Fig. 9. Summaryofmodeling results at 7 Ma for increasingK (leftwards) andQw(upwards)zone even for very high Qw of 10,000 m3/s; similarly for Qw = 100 m3/s sediment are cau

    observations are only at the right upward Note that for Kw, sand = 0.2 km2/kamost of the sediments accumulate at the nearshorenearshore even if Kw, sand is as extremely high as 20 km2/ka. Models that t the geological

  • depth and sediment thickness obtained for the deepest (westernmost)part of the basin as a function of Qw and K. The geological data (Fig. 6b)require that these parameters approach ~1900 m and ~4000 m, respec-tively, that is, successfulmodels are those that fall within the areamarkedby gray bands. The plots of Fig. 10a,b highlight the range of Qw thatstrongly affects the results (the steep part of the curves) as opposed tothe range of variations that do not affect the results (at parts of thecurves). For a constant Kw, sand of 0.2 km2/ka, successful models areobtained for Qw N 30,000 m3/s; for constant Kw, sand of 2 km2/ka,successful models are obtained for Qw of 400010,000 m3/s; and forconstant Kw, sand of 20 km2/ka, successful models are obtained for Qwof 10003000 m3/s. The cases presented in Figs. 7 and 8 are representedby colored circles. In a similar way Fig. 10c,d indicates that for a constantQw of 2830 m3/s successful models are obtained only for Kw, sand be-tween 4 and 7 km2/ka and that for larger K values the curves atten.

    6. Discussion

    To evaluate the feasibility of the eastern supplymodel for the LevantBasin we use global relationships between sediment loads, waterdischarge, and drainage area (Milliman and Syvitski, 1992; Dai andTrenberth, 2002; Syvitski and Milliman, 2007). Fig. 11a shows thatsediment discharge of 6500 km3/Ma (deduced from the thickness andduration of the sequence studied) is presently measured in rivers witha drainage area varying over three orders of magnitude from 1000 km2

    to 5,000,000 km2; thus, this factor alone is not very useful for testingmodel results. However, the high water discharge values (283052,000 m3/s) required to satisfy the observed depositional pattern

    narrows the range of possible drainage areas to 30,0005,000,000 km2

    (Fig. 11b).Considering world data about the elevation of drainage basins,

    Fig. 11a further indicates that for a given sedimentary load, as drainagearea decreases elevation increases. This means that in order to explainthe given sedimentary load with a drainage area in the order of30,000 km2 (point C in Fig. 11), not only do we need to have exception-ally high diffusion coefcient (Kw,sand = 20 km2/ka), but we also needto have an elevated mountain range of at least 2500 m above sea levelthat will supply the required amount of sediments from a relativelysmall area.

    In otherwords, amodelwith common diffusion coefcients requiresauvial system in theorder of the largest rivers that exist today on earthin terms of drainage area andwater discharge (point A in Fig. 11). Alter-natively, models with high or very high diffusion coefcients (points Band C, respectively) can explain the geological observations using riversthat are an order of magnitude smaller in terms of water discharge anddrainage area, but require elevated drainage basins. Are these two alter-natives possible for the studied case?

    A priori, the rst alternative (point A) sounds impossible. A drainagearea of 2,500,000 km2 is almost as large as that of the Nile basin(the longest river on earth with a drainage area of 3,254,555 km2) and~3 times larger than that of the Tigris (375,000 km2) and Euphrates(500,000 km2) basins together. Thismeans that almost the entire Arabi-an Peninsula of that time (see reconstructed shoreline in Fig. 1) and cer-tainly an area larger than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2,000,000 km2)drained northwestwards to the Levant Basin. In terms of water discharge(52,000 m3/s) it requires an enormous amount of water more than ten


    22 Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226Fig. 10. Sensitivity analysis of modeling to varying Qw (a, b) and K (c, d). Model results are pernmost) part of the basin. Gray zonemarks the range of sediment thickness (~1900 m) andw

    two unsuccessful cases of Figs. 7 and 8 are shown by colored circles.nted by plotting the sediment thickness (a, c) and water depth (b, d) at the deepest (west-r depth (~4000 m) required by the geological constraints (Fig. 6b). The two successful and

  • times the sum of the Tigris, the Euphrates (1750 m3/s when they con-verge at the Shatt al Arab), and the Nile (2830 m3/s) together; that im-plies, a prevailing climate that produces water ten times more than theprecipitation over the entire Middle East region today.

    The question remaining is whether the alternatives with the high(Kw, sand = 2 km2/ka) and very high (Kw, sand = 20 km2/ka) diffusioncoefcients are possible. Considering only the size of the drainagearea, the possibility that 250,000 km2 (point B) to 30,000 km2 (pointC) of the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula had drained to theMediterranean at that time cannot be excluded. However, water dis-charge of 10,000 or 2800 m3/s, respectively, requires that precipitationover these areas alone had produced an amount of water that presentlyfeeds the Nile. In addition, it requires an elevated drainage area thatis 12002500 m above sea level for point B (A ~ 250,000 km2) and

    N2500 m above sea level for point C (A ~ 30,000 km2). In reality, thisregion has been elevating since the Late Eocene (Bar, 2009; Avni et al.,2012, reference) and still has not reached these elevations except for ex-ceptional mountain peaks (Fig. 1). Thus, this alternative is unlikely forthe study area.

    To summarize, lling of the Levant Basin from eastern sourcesalone does not seem plausible. Even a Nile-size river discharge is notenough to produce the observed stratigraphy unless extreme hydraulicconditions are assumed. Alternatively, for normal range hydraulics,extremely large water discharges and extremely large drainage areasare necessary.

    This conclusion is consistent with the southward thickening ofLate Eocene to Early Miocene rocks within the deep Levant Basin(Macgregor, 2011; Steinberg et al., 2011) that hint at a major

    ed ontalesennageposs, sand

    rs ons am

    23Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226Fig. 11. (a) Sediment load (Qs) vs. area of drainage basin (A) in present world rivers basorganization of theUnited States ( Gray horizovalue of sediment load (6500 km3/Ma) used formodeling the Levant Basin. Color code reprrange of drainage areas, depending on their relief. (b)Water discharge (Qw) vs. area of Gray horizontal band represents the range ofthat yield models that t the geological data (Figs. 79). These Qw values correspond to Kwtext. Point A represents a combination which requires a river in the order of the largest riveQw and A values, but instead, require very high K and R values (see text). Point R represent

    from the east.n Database of World Rivers and their Sediment Yields, AquaStat, Food and Agricultureband represents the range of possible drainage area that correspondswith the approximatets basin relief inmeters (R). Note that a given value of sediment load corresponds to a largebasin in presentworld rivers based onDai and Trenberth (2002) downloaded fromwww.ible drainage areas that correspondwith three Qw values (2830, 10,000, and 52,000 m3/s)= 20, 2, and 0.2 km2/ka, respectively. Blue circles correspond to possibilities discussed inearth. Points B and C represent conditionswhich t the geological data with less extremeore realistic combination inwhich only 1/6 of sediment supply to the Levant Basin arrived

  • sedimentary source from Africa. Nonetheless, some supply from Arabiadenitely arrived to the basin through submarine canyons, as indicatedby seismic studies showing northwest trending drainage patterns(Gardosh et al., 2008). However, the exact amount of sediment that ar-rived from the east is hard to evaluate. Based on shoreline reconstruc-tion in Israel (Gvirtzman et al., 2011), Egypt (Salem, 1976) and SaudiArabia (Ziegler et al., 2001), the map of Fig. 1 schematically illustratesthe main drainage directions (thick black arrows) from Arabia at thattime and the area that may have drained into the Mediterranean (graypolygon), which is in the order of 100,000200,000 km2 (approximate-ly 400 km 400 km). A regional truncation surface recently describedby Bar (2009) and Avni et al. (2012) indicates that the Oligocene topog-raphy in this area was relatively at. According to the QsA relation-ships of Fig. 11a for areas with a relief of 200600 m or 6001200 m,Qs is expected to be 4001100 km3/Ma (point R in Fig. 11a), that is,less than 1/6 of the sediment that entered the modeled cube (whichdoes not include the entire basin). Assuming effective rainfall of200 mm per year, the water discharge from an area of 100,000200,000 km2 should have been ~1000 m3/s (point R in Fig. 11b).

    To illustrate the inuence of such a supply from the east on the deepbasin stratigraphy and on the stacking patterns along the Levant mar-gins, we reran our model with eastern sources of Qs = 1000 km3/Ma,Qw = 1000 m3/s and Kw,sand = 2 km2/ka (point R in Fig. 11) andsouth and west sources of Qs = 5600 km3/Ma and Qw = 5600 m3/s.Note however that the south and west boundaries of the modeledcube do not reach land area and the parameters used are not realistic.They were used to articially replace ocean currents that presumablytransported sediments that arrived to the eastern Mediterranean fromthe coasts of North Africa. The aim of this model is to illustrate the rela-tively minor role of the Levant sources, which approximately amountsto 1/6 of the total sediment supply. For better modeling one needs toinclude the entire basin and use geological constraints from wells of

    these data are condential, our model (Fig. 12) schematically illustratesthat sand units are spread in the entire basin with increasing amountstowards the south (under the Pliocene Nile cone, which is not modeledhere) and also towards the mouth of the Levant margin canyons.

    7. Conclusions

    In the Late Cenozoic large amounts of terrigenous material enteredthe Levant Basin from twomain sources: (a) a proto-Nile uvial systemthat transported sediments from Africa through the Egyptian continen-tal margin; and (b) an easterly uvial system that transported sedi-ments from Arabia through the Israeli continental margin.

    Geological evidence indicates that prior to the blocking of the easter-ly transport system by the Dead Sea rift valley and before the establish-ment of the modern Nile Cone (that is, before the Pliocene) depositionin the Levant Basin was mostly concentrated in its deeper part andvery little along its Levant margin. This means that most of the sedi-ments that reached the Levant from Arabia were either trapped inlandand did not reach the continentalmargin or that they bypassed the con-tinental margin through several known submarine canyons and settleddown in the deep part of the basin.

    3D stratigraphic forward model carried out in this study indicatesthat lling of the Levant Basin only by sediments that were transportedthrough the submarine canyons is possible only by assuming an unrea-sonably huge uvial system in the order of the largest rivers that existtoday on earth in terms of drainage area and water discharge. Such riv-ers obviously did not exist in the Levant area at that time. Alternatively,models with extreme hydraulic conditions in terms of diffusion coef-cients can explain the observed stratigraphy with rivers that are anorder of magnitude smaller, but this requires an elevated drainagebasin that couldn't have existed in the study area. We conclude thatthe Levant Basin was fed mainly from Africa as also indicated by thick-

    0 mdo nditet su(d)

    24 Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226the Nile cone and the deep Levant Basin. At this stage, however, while

    Fig. 12. Simulation results for eastern sources amounting to Qs = 1000 km3/Ma, Qw = 100Qw = 5600 m3/s. Note however that the south and west boundaries of the modeled cubereplace ocean currents that presumably transported sediments that reached the eastern Meminor role of the Levant sources, which approximately amounts to 1/6 of the total sedimenalong themouth of the Levantmargin submarine canyons (c) and across the southern canyon

    along the Levant slope.ening of units southwards.

    3/s, and Kw,sand = 2 km2/ka and south andwest sources amounting to Qs = 5600 km3/Ma,ot reach land area and the parameters used are not realistic. They were used to articiallyrranean from the coasts of North Africa. The aim of this model is to illustrate the relativelypply. Model results at 7 Ma are color coded by sand ratio (a) and facies (b). Cross sectionsare shown to illustrate how supply from the east inuenced stacking patterns and lithology

  • 25Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226A preliminary estimation of sediment supply from the east, whichis based on paleogeographic reconstructions, indicates that Arabiansources probably contributed less than 1/6 of the sediment supply tothe Levant Basin and probably inuenced only its eastern side close tothe canyons mouths.

    The question of how much sediment can be transported throughsubmarine channels, how far it reaches, and how widely it is dispersedis a fundamental problem in understanding lowstand system tracts andtheir dependency on tectonics and climate. Here we demonstrate hownumerical modeling can quantify such problems as a function of basingeometry and hydraulic conditions; and how modeling results can beevaluated in light of global datasets of present-day rivers along withpaleogeographic knowledge.


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    26 Z. Gvirtzman et al. / Marine Geology 347 (2014) 1226

    Constraining sediment transport to deep marine basins through submarine channels: The Levant margin in the Late Cenozoic1. Introduction2. Geological background2.1. Regional setting2.2. Basin structure and step formation2.3. Late Tertiary sedimentation and depositional patterns

    3. Method: principles of forward modeling by Dionisos4. Model setup5. Simulation results6. Discussion7. ConclusionsReferences


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