The submerged paleolandscape of the Maltese Islands: Morphology, evolution and relation to Quaternary environmental change

Aaron Micallef*, Federica Foglini, Timothy Le Bas, Lorenzo Angeletti, Vittorio Maselli, Alessandro Pasuto, Marco Taviani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

After the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, 450 km(2) of former terrestrial and coastal landscape of the Maltese Islands was drowned by the ensuing sea level rise. In this study we use high resolution seafloor data (multibeam echosounder data, seismic reflection profiles, and Remotely Operated Vehicle imagery) and bottom samples to reconstruct similar to 300 km(2) of this submerged Maltese paleolandscape. The observed paleolandscape is exceptionally well preserved and comprises former coastal landforms - (i) fault-related escarpments, (ii) paleoshore platforms and associated shorelines, (iii) paleoshoreline deposits, and (iv) mass movement deposits - and former terrestrial landforms - (v) river valleys, (vi) alluvial plains, (vii) karstified limestone plateaus, and (viii) sinkholes. These elements indicate that the paleolandscape has been primarily shaped by tectonic activity combined with fluvial, coastal, slope instability and karstic processes; these are the same processes the shaped the current terrestrial and coastal landscape. By correlating the identified landforms with the timing of known changes in sea level during the last glacial cycle, we infer that the alluvial plains and the shallowest limestone plateaus had up to 100 kyr to develop, whereas the paleoshoreline deposits are likely to have formed between 28 kyr and 14 kyr. The most prominent paleoshore platforms, shorelines and river valleys were generated between 60 kyr and 20 kyr. Fluvial erosion is likely to have been prevalent during periods of low sea level (Last Glacial Maximum and stadial conditions during MIS 3), whereas karst processes should have been more effective during warm and humid interstadial periods. Our results have implications for improving the characterization of past environments and climates, as well as providing a much needed background for prehistoric and geoarcheological research in the central Mediterranean region. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-147
Number of pages19
JournalMarine Geology
Volume335
Early online date23 Nov 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Keywords

  • submerged paleolandscape
  • seafloor mapping
  • Quaternary
  • Maltese Islands
  • Mediterranean
  • sea level change

Cite this

The submerged paleolandscape of the Maltese Islands: Morphology, evolution and relation to Quaternary environmental change. / Micallef, Aaron; Foglini, Federica; Le Bas, Timothy; Angeletti, Lorenzo; Maselli, Vittorio; Pasuto, Alessandro; Taviani, Marco.

In: Marine Geology, Vol. 335, 01.01.2013, p. 129-147.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Micallef, A, Foglini, F, Le Bas, T, Angeletti, L, Maselli, V, Pasuto, A & Taviani, M 2013, 'The submerged paleolandscape of the Maltese Islands: Morphology, evolution and relation to Quaternary environmental change', Marine Geology, vol. 335, pp. 129-147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2012.10.017
Micallef, Aaron ; Foglini, Federica ; Le Bas, Timothy ; Angeletti, Lorenzo ; Maselli, Vittorio ; Pasuto, Alessandro ; Taviani, Marco. / The submerged paleolandscape of the Maltese Islands: Morphology, evolution and relation to Quaternary environmental change. In: Marine Geology. 2013 ; Vol. 335. pp. 129-147.
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abstract = "After the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, 450 km(2) of former terrestrial and coastal landscape of the Maltese Islands was drowned by the ensuing sea level rise. In this study we use high resolution seafloor data (multibeam echosounder data, seismic reflection profiles, and Remotely Operated Vehicle imagery) and bottom samples to reconstruct similar to 300 km(2) of this submerged Maltese paleolandscape. The observed paleolandscape is exceptionally well preserved and comprises former coastal landforms - (i) fault-related escarpments, (ii) paleoshore platforms and associated shorelines, (iii) paleoshoreline deposits, and (iv) mass movement deposits - and former terrestrial landforms - (v) river valleys, (vi) alluvial plains, (vii) karstified limestone plateaus, and (viii) sinkholes. These elements indicate that the paleolandscape has been primarily shaped by tectonic activity combined with fluvial, coastal, slope instability and karstic processes; these are the same processes the shaped the current terrestrial and coastal landscape. By correlating the identified landforms with the timing of known changes in sea level during the last glacial cycle, we infer that the alluvial plains and the shallowest limestone plateaus had up to 100 kyr to develop, whereas the paleoshoreline deposits are likely to have formed between 28 kyr and 14 kyr. The most prominent paleoshore platforms, shorelines and river valleys were generated between 60 kyr and 20 kyr. Fluvial erosion is likely to have been prevalent during periods of low sea level (Last Glacial Maximum and stadial conditions during MIS 3), whereas karst processes should have been more effective during warm and humid interstadial periods. Our results have implications for improving the characterization of past environments and climates, as well as providing a much needed background for prehistoric and geoarcheological research in the central Mediterranean region. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.",
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author = "Aaron Micallef and Federica Foglini and {Le Bas}, Timothy and Lorenzo Angeletti and Vittorio Maselli and Alessandro Pasuto and Marco Taviani",
note = "Acknowledgments This research was supported by Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship PIEF-GA-2009-252702, HERMIONE (grant agreement no. 226354) and COCONET (grant agreement no. 287844) within the European Community's 7th Framework Programme (FP7 2007–2013), and by grant 398 of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Education Trust. The work was carried out within the project MAPSCAPE (Mapping the Quaternary landscape of the Maltese Islands) and is also part of COST (Cooperation in European Science and Technology) Action TD0902 SPLASHCOS (Submerged Prehistoric Archaeology and Landscapes of the Continental Shelf), funded by the ESF through the EU RTD Framework Programme. We kindly acknowledge RPM Nautical Foundation, the captain and crew of R/V Hercules, R/V Urania and Highland Geo Solutions for their assistance with data collection. We are grateful to the Hydrographic Office of the Malta Maritime Authority and the UK Hydrographic Office for providing access to single-beam echosounder data of the Maltese coastal waters and the HMS Roebuck MBES data set. These data have been reproduced by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office and the UK Hydrographic Office, and they should not be used for navigation. We would like to thank Mariacristina Prampolini for helping with the MBES data processing, as well as Fabio Trincardi for discussing an earlier version of this paper. The MBES, ROV, grab and SCUBA dive surveys were possible following permits issued by the Malta Resources Authority and the Environment Protection Directorate of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. We are indebted to John Wells, Mauro Soldati and an anonymous reviewer for their insightful reviews. This is ISMAR-CNR Bologna scientific contribution no. 1770.",
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T1 - The submerged paleolandscape of the Maltese Islands: Morphology, evolution and relation to Quaternary environmental change

AU - Micallef, Aaron

AU - Foglini, Federica

AU - Le Bas, Timothy

AU - Angeletti, Lorenzo

AU - Maselli, Vittorio

AU - Pasuto, Alessandro

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N1 - Acknowledgments This research was supported by Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship PIEF-GA-2009-252702, HERMIONE (grant agreement no. 226354) and COCONET (grant agreement no. 287844) within the European Community's 7th Framework Programme (FP7 2007–2013), and by grant 398 of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Education Trust. The work was carried out within the project MAPSCAPE (Mapping the Quaternary landscape of the Maltese Islands) and is also part of COST (Cooperation in European Science and Technology) Action TD0902 SPLASHCOS (Submerged Prehistoric Archaeology and Landscapes of the Continental Shelf), funded by the ESF through the EU RTD Framework Programme. We kindly acknowledge RPM Nautical Foundation, the captain and crew of R/V Hercules, R/V Urania and Highland Geo Solutions for their assistance with data collection. We are grateful to the Hydrographic Office of the Malta Maritime Authority and the UK Hydrographic Office for providing access to single-beam echosounder data of the Maltese coastal waters and the HMS Roebuck MBES data set. These data have been reproduced by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office and the UK Hydrographic Office, and they should not be used for navigation. We would like to thank Mariacristina Prampolini for helping with the MBES data processing, as well as Fabio Trincardi for discussing an earlier version of this paper. The MBES, ROV, grab and SCUBA dive surveys were possible following permits issued by the Malta Resources Authority and the Environment Protection Directorate of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. We are indebted to John Wells, Mauro Soldati and an anonymous reviewer for their insightful reviews. This is ISMAR-CNR Bologna scientific contribution no. 1770.

PY - 2013/1/1

Y1 - 2013/1/1

N2 - After the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, 450 km(2) of former terrestrial and coastal landscape of the Maltese Islands was drowned by the ensuing sea level rise. In this study we use high resolution seafloor data (multibeam echosounder data, seismic reflection profiles, and Remotely Operated Vehicle imagery) and bottom samples to reconstruct similar to 300 km(2) of this submerged Maltese paleolandscape. The observed paleolandscape is exceptionally well preserved and comprises former coastal landforms - (i) fault-related escarpments, (ii) paleoshore platforms and associated shorelines, (iii) paleoshoreline deposits, and (iv) mass movement deposits - and former terrestrial landforms - (v) river valleys, (vi) alluvial plains, (vii) karstified limestone plateaus, and (viii) sinkholes. These elements indicate that the paleolandscape has been primarily shaped by tectonic activity combined with fluvial, coastal, slope instability and karstic processes; these are the same processes the shaped the current terrestrial and coastal landscape. By correlating the identified landforms with the timing of known changes in sea level during the last glacial cycle, we infer that the alluvial plains and the shallowest limestone plateaus had up to 100 kyr to develop, whereas the paleoshoreline deposits are likely to have formed between 28 kyr and 14 kyr. The most prominent paleoshore platforms, shorelines and river valleys were generated between 60 kyr and 20 kyr. Fluvial erosion is likely to have been prevalent during periods of low sea level (Last Glacial Maximum and stadial conditions during MIS 3), whereas karst processes should have been more effective during warm and humid interstadial periods. Our results have implications for improving the characterization of past environments and climates, as well as providing a much needed background for prehistoric and geoarcheological research in the central Mediterranean region. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

AB - After the end of the Last Glacial Maximum, 450 km(2) of former terrestrial and coastal landscape of the Maltese Islands was drowned by the ensuing sea level rise. In this study we use high resolution seafloor data (multibeam echosounder data, seismic reflection profiles, and Remotely Operated Vehicle imagery) and bottom samples to reconstruct similar to 300 km(2) of this submerged Maltese paleolandscape. The observed paleolandscape is exceptionally well preserved and comprises former coastal landforms - (i) fault-related escarpments, (ii) paleoshore platforms and associated shorelines, (iii) paleoshoreline deposits, and (iv) mass movement deposits - and former terrestrial landforms - (v) river valleys, (vi) alluvial plains, (vii) karstified limestone plateaus, and (viii) sinkholes. These elements indicate that the paleolandscape has been primarily shaped by tectonic activity combined with fluvial, coastal, slope instability and karstic processes; these are the same processes the shaped the current terrestrial and coastal landscape. By correlating the identified landforms with the timing of known changes in sea level during the last glacial cycle, we infer that the alluvial plains and the shallowest limestone plateaus had up to 100 kyr to develop, whereas the paleoshoreline deposits are likely to have formed between 28 kyr and 14 kyr. The most prominent paleoshore platforms, shorelines and river valleys were generated between 60 kyr and 20 kyr. Fluvial erosion is likely to have been prevalent during periods of low sea level (Last Glacial Maximum and stadial conditions during MIS 3), whereas karst processes should have been more effective during warm and humid interstadial periods. Our results have implications for improving the characterization of past environments and climates, as well as providing a much needed background for prehistoric and geoarcheological research in the central Mediterranean region. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

KW - submerged paleolandscape

KW - seafloor mapping

KW - Quaternary

KW - Maltese Islands

KW - Mediterranean

KW - sea level change

U2 - 10.1016/j.margeo.2012.10.017

DO - 10.1016/j.margeo.2012.10.017

M3 - Article

VL - 335

SP - 129

EP - 147

JO - Marine Geology

JF - Marine Geology

SN - 0025-3227

ER -