Composition of clays along the continental shelf off Israel: Contribution of the Nile versus local sources

A. Sandler, B. Herut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The eastern Mediterranean sedimentary regime is dominated by sediment transport from the Nile River and its delta, but recent studies have also suggested a certain contribution of clay fraction from streams to the continental shelf and slope off Israel. In the present study we focused on clay fraction deposition along the inner (~40-1000 m water depth) shelf of Israel in order to substantiate and quantify its different sources. For this purpose detailed XRD mineralogical determinations as well as chemical compositions of the clay (<2 μm) fraction of marine and continental sediments were used. The clay mineral composition of Israeli stream sediments is variable, with no distinct spatial or temporal trend, but within a limited assemblage. This clay assemblage is made up of illite-smectite (IS) phases (70-90%), kaolinite (5-25%) and illite (<10%) and is similar to that of the Nile. However, it is clearly distinguished by the type of the IS phases, which are derived mainly from Mesozoic outcrops and recent sediments/soils and are less expandable than those of the Nile, which are derived mainly from weathered basalt. The Nile-derived component is depleted in the marine clay fraction along the Israel coast, evidenced by a decrease of IS expandability and the Fe2O3/Al2O3 ratio, and an increase in the K2O/Al2O3, MgO/Al2O3 and CaO/Al2O3 ratios. The depletion is well pronounced north of Tel Aviv, where the largest coastal plain stream flows to the sea. A northward increase of carbonates in the clay fraction, and particularly of the bioskeletal component is indicated by the ratios of MgO and Sr to CaO. The contribution of the local streams to the shallow shelf marine clay fraction is estimated to be about 50%. A minor contribution of desert dust is identified by the relative increase in kaolinite in the marine sediments south of Tel Aviv. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-354
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2000
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Most marine samples were collected on board the R/V Shikmona in a cruise supported by G.J. van der Zwaan from Utrecht University. We thank: Y. Goren, N. Porat, S. Ilani, and A. Sneh for providing supplementary samples; S. Ehrlich, D. Stiber and L. Halicz for carrying out the chemical analyses; G. Almagor for commenting on an earlier version; B. Katz for linguistic editing; and J. Hall and B. Cohen for drawing the maps. We appreciate the reviews of Nathalie Fagel and Christian Robert whose comments tremendously improved the manuscript. This study was supported in part by the Israeli Ministry of Infrastructure and by the Israeli Ministry of Environment.


  • Chemical composition
  • Clay mineralogy
  • East Mediterranean
  • Israel
  • Nile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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