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Carbon and sediment fluxes inhibited in the submarine Congo Canyon by landslide-damming

Pope, Ed L.; Heijnen, Maarten S.; Talling, Peter J.; Jacinto, Ricardo Silva; Gaillot, Arnaud; Baker, Megan L.; Hage, Sophie; Hasenhündl, Martin; Heerema, Catharina J.; McGhee, Claire; Ruffell, Sean C.; Simmons, Stephen M.; Cartigny, Matthieu J.B.; Clare, Michael A.; Dennielou, Bernard; Parsons, Daniel R.; Peirce, Christine; Urlaub, Morelia

Carbon and sediment fluxes inhibited in the submarine Congo Canyon by landslide-damming Thumbnail


Maarten S. Heijnen

Ricardo Silva Jacinto

Arnaud Gaillot

Sophie Hage

Martin Hasenhündl

Catharina J. Heerema

Claire McGhee

Stephen M. Simmons

Michael A. Clare

Bernard Dennielou

Daniel R. Parsons

Morelia Urlaub


Landslide-dams, which are often transient, can strongly affect the geomorphology, and sediment and geochemical fluxes, within subaerial fluvial systems. The potential occurrence and impact of analogous landslide-dams in submarine canyons has, however, been difficult to determine due to a scarcity of sufficiently time-resolved observations. Here we present repeat bathymetric surveys of a major submarine canyon, the Congo Canyon, offshore West Africa, from 2005 and 2019. We show how an ~0.09 km3 canyon-flank landslide dammed the canyon, causing temporary storage of a further ~0.4 km3 of sediment, containing ~5 Mt of primarily terrestrial organic carbon. The trapped sediment was up to 150 m thick and extended >26 km up-canyon of the landslide-dam. This sediment has been transported by turbidity currents whose sediment load is trapped by the landslide-dam. Our results suggest canyon-flank collapses can be important controls on canyon morphology as they can generate or contribute to the formation of meander cut-offs, knickpoints and terraces. Flank collapses have the potential to modulate sediment and geochemical fluxes to the deep sea and may impact efficiency of major submarine canyons as transport conduits and locations of organic carbon sequestration. This has potential consequences for deep-sea ecosystems that rely on organic carbon transported through submarine canyons.


Pope, E. L., Heijnen, M. S., Talling, P. J., Jacinto, R. S., Gaillot, A., Baker, M. L., …Urlaub, M. (2022). Carbon and sediment fluxes inhibited in the submarine Congo Canyon by landslide-damming. Nature Geoscience, 15(10), 845-853.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 26, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 29, 2022
Publication Date 2022-10
Deposit Date Oct 7, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 21, 2023
Journal Nature Geoscience
Print ISSN 1752-0894
Electronic ISSN 1752-0908
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 10
Pages 845-853


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