Physical, biological, geochemical and sedimentological controls on the ichnology of continental slope channel systems

Richard H. T. Callow, Ben Kneller, Mason Dykstra, Duncan McIlroy

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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Sediments of the continental slope are commonly bioturbated by endo- and epibenthic organisms, particularly in and around submarine canyons and channels. This study reviews the architecture and depositional environments associated with canyons and channels on the continental slope, and assesses the key physical and chemical conditions encountered in and around these conduits. Hydrodynamic energy, concentration and quality of organic carbon, dissolved oxygen concentration and sedimentation rate are identified as key controls on the composition of benthic ecosystems in slope environments. Submarine canyons and channels focus a variety of turbid and clear-water currents, all of which serve to increase the concentration of oxygen, labile organic carbon and other nutrients, which tend to elevate the abundance and biodiversity in the seafloor sediments, compared with those of the surrounding slope. Ancient slope channel and canyon systems reflect some of the variation in ichnological assemblages that is seen in modern analogues, although processes of erosion and trace fossil preservation mean that the benthic environment is often incompletely preserved in the ancient record. By integrating current understanding of sedimentology, oceanography, biology and ichnology of slope environments it is possible to provide a first order summary of the inter-relationships between ichnology and depositional environments on the continental slope. The combination of these data has the potential to improve our understanding of changes in deep marine benthic ecosystems through geological time, and to further the use of ichnology in assessing hydrocarbon reservoir presence, quality and performance from bioturbated slope, canyon and channel-levee hydrocarbon reservoirs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-166
Number of pages23
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
Early online date2 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • ichnology
  • turbidite
  • slope
  • canyon
  • channel
  • levee
  • bioturbation


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