Stable carbon and oxygen isotope record of central Lake Erie sediments

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Abstract

Stable carbon and oxygen isotope data from mollusc aragonite extracted from sediment cores provide new information on the origin and history of sedimentation in the southwestern area of the central basin of Lake Erie. Sediments infilling the Sandusky subbasin consist of three lithologic units overlying glacial deposits. The lowest of these is a soft gray mud overlain by a shell hash layer containing Sphaerium striatinum fragments. A fluid mud unit caps the shell hash layer and extends upwards to the sediment-water interface. New stable isotope data suggest that the soft gray mud unit is of postglacial, rather than proglacial, origin. These data also suggest that the shell hash layer was derived from erosional winnowing of the underlying soft gray mud layer. This winnowing event may have occurred as a result of the Nipissing flood.

The Pelee-Lorain moraine, which forms the eastern boundary of the Sandusky subbasin, is an elevated area of till capped by a sand deposit that originated as a beach. The presence of both the shell hash layer and relict beach deposit strengthens the interpretation that the Nipissing flood was a critical event in the development of the southwestern area of the central basin of Lake Erie. This event, which returned drainage from the upper lakes to the Lake Erie basin, was a dominant influence on regional stratigraphy, bathymetry, and depositional setting.

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