Sediment transport mechanisms revealed by quantitative analyses of seafloor morphology: New evidence from multibeam bathymetry of the Israel exclusive economic zone

Mor Kanari, Gideon Tibor, John K. Hall, Tomer Ketter, Guy Lang, Uri Schattner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study synthesizes 15 years (2001–2016) of detailed multibeam hydrographic mapping covering the entire 26,500 km2 of the Israeli Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Multibeam data were collected on-board three research vessels across the continental shelf, slope, and the deep Levant basin; between water depths of about 15 m to 2100 m. Single-channel 3.5 kHz seismic reflection chirp profiles were collected simultaneously with the multibeam surveys in selected parts of the area. The new data enabled the first comprehensive quantitative seafloor morphological analysis of the slope and deep basin. Using GIS techniques on the high-resolution multibeam data, we analyze the spatial distribution and quantitatively describe the seafloor morphologies in detail. High-resolution chirp seismic profiles demonstrate the underlying shallow structure. Results indicate that the seabed comprises five main morphologies: folds, faults, sediment waves, deepwater channels, and sediment fan lobes. Quantitative morphological analysis and seismic data interpretation were used to derive field relations between these morphologies, which along with previously collected multi-channel seismic reflection data, suggest that a concentric fold geometry formed around the Nile outlet during the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene, as part of a general thin-skin radial salt-tectonic deformation above the Messinian mobile unit. This radial motion was accompanied by displacement along NNE-trending strike-slip faults in the basin, and an extensional component across E-W trending strike-slip faults along the Levant margin. While some of these displacements continue to deform the modern seabed (across Area A), others are covered by a wedge of Quaternary deposits, mainly in the northeastern part of the basin (Area B). Areas A and B also differ in grain size distribution, as indicated by backscatter analysis of the multibeam data. These observations divide the Israeli EEZ into two distinct areas: (Area A) Nile derived siliciclastic sediments transported directly into the deep basin via confined (forming meandering channels and overbank deposits) and unconfined flows (forming fans and lobes). The wedge consisting of Area B was fed by erosion products of the Nile outlet that were transported northwards along the continental shelf by seafloor currents of the Levant Jet System, and glided down the northern Levant continental slope as turbidity currents. This supply built at least seven sequences of Quaternary sediment waves that form upslope migrating cyclic steps. The complete data coverage and quantitative morphological analysis presented here introduce new spatial and temporal constraints that call for a reexamination of previous seabed sampling locations not accounting for detailed bathymetry, and to augment future seabed sampling efforts, understanding the sediment supply paths across the basin, and the geomorphological footprint of salt tectonics processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104224
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
StatePublished - Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Eastern mediterranean
  • GIS spatial analysis
  • Multibeam bathymetry
  • Salt tectonics
  • Seafloor geomorphology
  • Sediment transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geophysics
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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