Topic:- Ocean Floor Relief & Oceanic Oozes
Marine sediment, any deposit of insoluble material, primarily rock and soil particles, transported from land areas to the ocean by wind, ice, and rivers, as well as the remains of marine organisms, products of submarine volcanism, chemical precipitates from seawater, and materials from outer space (e.g., meteorites) that accumulate on the seafloor. Although systematic study of deep-ocean sediments began with the HMS Challenger expeditions between 1872 and 1876, intensive research was not undertaken until nearly 100 years later. Since 1968 American scientists, in collaboration with those from the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and various other countries, have recovered numerous sedimentary core samples from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the use of a specially instrumented deep-sea drilling vessel called the Glomar Challenger.
Marine sediments deposited near continents cover approximately 25 percent of the seafloor, but they probably account for roughly 90 percent by volume of all sediment deposits. Submarine canyons constitute the main route for sediment movement from continental shelves and slopes onto the deep seafloor. In most cases, an earthquake triggers a massive slumping and stirring of sedimentary material at the canyon head. Mixed with seawater, a dense liquid mass forms, giving rise to a density current that flows down the canyon at speeds of several tens of kilometres per hour. After reaching the base of the continental slope, the sediment-laden mass moves out onto the continental rise at the base of the slope. Deposits from turbidity currents (i.e., short-lived density currents caused by suspended sediment concentrations) can build outward for hundreds and sometimes thousands of kilometres across the ocean bottom. Large sediment-built plains commonly occur in the Atlantic Ocean, where turbidity currents flow from the base of a continent to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Deposits produced by turbidity currents are called turbidites. Most of them consist of sands and silts, but a few are composed of gravels. Turbidites tend to have distinct boundaries between adjacent units. Each of these units is formed by a separate flow and often exhibits a systematic change in grain size from coarsest at the bottom to finest at the top. Turbidites characteristically contain the remains of shallow-water organisms mixed with deep-water varieties. The shallow-water organisms came from areas where the density current originated, whereas the deep-water forms existed in the area traversed by the current or where it finally deposited its load.
The sediments deposited on continental shelves and rises, frequently referred to as hemi pelagic sediments, ordinarily accumulate too rapidly to react chemically with seawater. In most cases, individual grains thus retain characteristics imparted to them in the area where they formed. As a rule, sediments deposited near coral reefs in shallow tropical waters contain abundant carbonate material. Calcareous, reef-derived muds, for example, occur around atolls at the north western end of the Hawaiian Island chain. Near volcanoes, sediments contain ash—e.g., silicate glass and fine volcanic-rock fragments.
Roughly 75 percent of the deep seafloor is covered by slowly accumulating deposits known as pelagic. Because of its great distance from the continents, the abyssal plain does not receive turbidity currents and their associated coarse-grained sediments. Moreover, since relatively little land-derived sediment consisting of silicate mineral and rock fragments reach the ocean bottom, deposits there show a predominance of biogenic constituents (i.e., the skeletal remains of marine organisms). In areas where surface waters are fertile, opal from diatoms (algae) and radiolarians (protozoan) and calcium carbonate from such organisms as foraminiferans, coccolithophorids, and pteropods are supplied to the sediment. If the biological constituents exceed 30 percent by volume, then the deep-ocean sediments are usually classified on the basis of their biogenic components. For example, a mud containing 30 percent by volume of foraminiferal tests (external hard parts) is called a foraminiferal mud or Ooze. When one genus dominates, it is frequently referred to by the generic name, such as Globigerina ooze. Diatomaceous and radiolarian muds are named on the same basis. Where biogenic constituents compose less than 30 percent of the total, the deposit is called a deep-sea clay, brown mud, or red clay.
Types of Marine Sediments There are four basic types of marine sediments, all of which are grouped and ordered by the origin of their particles, the grain sizes, and where they are deposited. These four kinds include lithogenous, biogenous, hydrogenous, and cosmogenous. All of these are different from one another in some way but all share in common the tendency to collect along the floor of the oceans as a testament to many natural processes such as weathering, erosion, and collision.
1] Lithogenous sediments:- These are formed by the weathering process and are made up of small particles of weathered rocks and oceanic volcanoes. They are often formed together when metal and silicate ions bond. There are two types of lithogenous sediments; terrigenous and “red clay” and they are different because of the process behind their existences. For instance, terrigenous sediments are produced as a result of the weathering process of rocks above the water. These eroded particles are carried by the wind and other natural means to the oceans and are deposited at the bottom. Although it can be easily found in river beds, not much of this finds its way to the deep ocean. Red clay lithogenous sediment, on the other hand, is plentiful in the ocean. It is reddish-brown (hence the name) and is a combination of terrigenous material and volcanic ash. It is transported to the oceans by currents and wind and it settles in deep places along the ocean floor.
2] Biogenous sediments:- They are formed from the insoluble remains of past life forms and parts such as bones and teeth. In many areas where the water is shallow, a majority of these sediments are the remains of shells or fragments from shelled sea creatures as well as corals. In the deep sea where there is no such a high concentration of these life forms, biogenous sediment is made from the microscopic shells that are deposited by tiny plants, animals, and plankton that live on the water’s surface and eventually make their way down to the ocean floor.
3] Hydrogenous sediments:- It is formed by precipitation of minerals from the ocean’s water or can be formed as a new mineral as a result of chemical reactions between the water of the ocean and sediments that already exist on the ocean floor. Chemically speaking, this is an interesting sedimentary process because of the reactions that take place. For instance, the water of earth’s oceans contains ions that have already been dissolved. When evaporation occurs and large amounts of these ions remain the area can become saturated with the leftovers from this process, salt.
4] Cosmogenous sediments:- They are extraterrestrial in nature and are generally like miniature meteorites. These sediments are the remains of impacts of large bodies of space material (such as comets and asteroids). They are comprised of silicates and mixtures of different metals and, as one might imagine, they are not incredibly common to find. This is rather surprising because there is a constant “rain of these materials that falls to earth daily. The amounts of such sediments also leads researchers to wonder if these space-driven events might have been responsible for mass extinction and thus these sediments hold several possible keys to future understanding of ancient life on earth.