Articles | Volume 13, issue 2
Research article
27 Mar 2017
Research article |  | 27 Mar 2017

Inorganic and organic geochemical fingerprinting of sediment sources and ocean circulation on a complex continental margin (São Paulo Bight, Brazil)

Michel Michaelovitch de Mahiques, Till Jens Jörg Hanebuth, Renata Hanae Nagai, Marcia Caruso Bícego, Rubens Cesar Lopes Figueira, Silvia Helena Mello Sousa, Leticia Burone, Paula Franco-Fraguas, Satie Taniguchi, Alexandre Barbosa Salaroli, Gilberto Pereira Dias, Denise Menezes Prates, and Maria Eugenia Fernandes Freitas

Abstract. In this study, we use inorganic (metal) and organic (bulk and molecular) markers in sediment samples of the south-eastern Brazilian margin to investigate the response of geochemical fingerprints to the complex hydrodynamic processes present in the area. Results indicate the potential of export of terrigenous siliciclastic and organic constituents to the upper slope, even in an area with limited fluvial supply.

Metal contents and especially the ln(Ti ∕ Al) and ln(Fe ∕ K) ratios make it possible to recognise the extension of shelf sediments toward the upper slope. Potassium, here expressed as ln(K ∕ Sc) and ln(K ∕ Al) ratios used as proxies of illite–kaolinite variations, proved to be an important parameter, especially because it allowed us to decipher the imprint of the northward flow of the Intermediate Western Boundary Current (IWBC) in comparison to the southward flows of the Brazil Current (BC) and Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC).

Using organic matter analyses, we were able to evaluate the extent of terrestrial contributions to the outer shelf and slope, even without the presence of significant fluvial input. In addition, molecular markers signify a slight increase in the input of C4-derived plants to the slope sediments, transported from distant areas by the main alongshore boundary currents, indicating that the terrestrial fraction of the organic matter deposited on the slope has a distinct origin when compared to shelf sediments.

Short summary
In this paper we used sediment samples from the shelf and upper/middle slope off south-eastern Brazil in order to recognise the inorganic and organic signatures of the main current systems acting in the area. It was possible to identify the extension of the contribution of terrigenous sediments from the adjacent continent as well as to recognise the different geochemical signatures related to the Brazil Current, Intermediate Western Boundary Current and Deep Western Boundary Current.