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Transport of terrestrial organic matter in the Ogooue deep-sea turbidite system Gabon

, : Transport of terrestrial organic matter in the Ogooue deep-sea turbidite system Gabon. Marine and Petroleum Geology 28.5

In order to define the nature and distribution of the organic matter (OM) preserved in the modern Ogooue deep sea turbidite system (Gabon), bulk geochemical techniques (Rock-Eval pyrolysis, elemental and isotopic analyses) and palynofacies were applied to three piston cores collected in the Cape Lopez Canyon and lobe and on the continental slope, north of the canyon. The hemipelagic sedimentation in the study area is characterized by high accumulations of well-preserved OM ( approximately 2-3 wt. TOC %). Bulk geochemical and palynofacies analysis indicate both a marine and terrestrial origin of the OM. Contribution of the marine source is higher on the slope than in the canyon and lobe. OM accumulation in turbidites is strongly controlled by the combined influence of the Cape Lopez Canyon and littoral drift. In the canyon and lobe, turbidites show generally low TOC content (0.5 wt. %) and OM is oxidized. The origin of the OM is interpreted as both marine and terrestrial, with a higher contribution of continental source versus marine source. The low TOC contents are due to the large siliciclastic fraction transported by the littoral drift and diverted in the Cape Lopez Canyon during high energy processes (e.g. storms) which tend to dilute the OM in the turbidites. Transport by long-shore currents and/or turbiditic flows leads to oxidation of the OM. On the continental slope located north of the Cape Lopez Canyon, large amounts of OM are deposited in turbidites (up to 14 wt.%). The OM is predominantly derived from terrestrial land plants and has not been subjected to intense oxidation. These deposits are characterized by high hydrocarbon potential (up to 27 kg HC/t rock), indicating a good potential as gas-prone source rock. Because Cape Lopez Canyon captures a significant part of the sediment transported by the littoral drift, the siliciclastic sedimentary flux is reduced north of the canyon; OM is thus concentrated in the turbidites. Variation in TOC content within turbidite laminae can be explained by the burst and sweep deposition process affecting the boundary layer of the turbulent flow. This study confirms that gravity flows play a preponderant role in the accumulation and preservation of OM in deep water and that deep sea turbidite systems could be regarded as an environment where organic sedimentation occurs.

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