Could bulk density profiles provide information about recent sedimentation rates?
Independent validation has to be an integral part of the 210Pb-based radiometric dating of recent sediments. The combined use of artificial fallout radionuclides leads to serious problems because only the identification of peaks and their use as time-marks is not sufficiently rigorous to ensure the accuracy of dates. Quantitative modelling of depth profiles requires reliable input functions, which can be substantially different from the atmospheric deposition records. The appropriate treatment of compaction is another source of complexity. Continuum mechanics provide a suitable framework to understand compaction in sedimentary basins with length scales of several km. Nevertheless, early compaction (with length scales of few cm at the sediment surface) takes place under hydrostatic equilibrium conditions, and it can be better understood as a transport phenomenon: a mass flow governed by spatial gradients of a compaction-potential energy, involving a conductivity function. This paper explores some analytical and numerical solutions for these equations to provide insight about the early compaction phenomenon. Given a conductivity function and a constant sedimentation rate, the system will evolve towards a steady-state profile for bulk density. The fingerprint of variable sedimentation rates, among other changes in environmental conditions, will be studied with numerical solutions. Finally, the paper explores the use of bulk density profiles for deriving information on recent sedimentation rates, which could provide independent support for the radiometric dating models.
KeywordsBulk density Early compaction Sedimentation rate Radiometric dating Mass depth
Early compaction limit
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