Long-term development and current status of the Barcelona continental shelf: A source-to-sink approach


The Barcelona continental shelf, off the city of Barcelona (NE Spain), is a relatively narrow canyon-bounded shelf in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea. Three medium-size rivers (Tordera, Besós and Llobregat) and several ephemeral rivulets flow into this margin. Two main domains have been recognized in the Barcelona shelf: (i) a modern, river-influenced area, and (ii) a relict, sediment depleted area, both affected by a variety of human impacts. A detailed geomorphologic study based on multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data, high resolution seismic profiles, and surface sediment samples allowed mapping and interpreting the main distinctive seafloor features on the Barcelona shelf. Modern sedimentary features reveal that the Llobregat River is the main sediment source of the Barcelona prodeltaic shelf. High-discharge fluvial events result in the formation of suspended sediment plumes and sediment waves on the shelf floor. Relict (late Pleistocene–Holocene) sedimentary features reflect that an important shift occurred in the seashore direction between MIS 4 and MIS 2, and that recent neotectonic reactivation has created a set of seafloor faults. The Barcelona inner and middle shelf is severely impacted by anthropogenic activities such as the enlargement works of the Port of Barcelona, sewage pipes, dredging, anchoring and trawling.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

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Continental Shelf Research



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