Geo-acoustic characterization of calcareous seabed in the Florida Keys

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Geotechnical and acoustic measurements on a set of 35 gravity cores and 11 box cores from two calcareous seabed locations in the lower Florida Keys that are characterized by contrasting environmental settings show significant differences in terms of vertical profiles of physical, acoustic, and geotechnical properties. The lower energy study site of the two is sheltered by the adjacent Dry Tortugas platform complex and reveals a higher porosity surface interval with significant changes in water content, density, and compressional wave velocity within the upper 25 cm. Sediment cores from open-water locations, such as those collected in the study area north of the Marquesas Keys, exhibit higher, less variable densities and lower velocities within the top 25 cm. This is attributed to consolidation associated with cyclic pressure variations from surface swells and strong tidal currents. Acoustic subbottom profiles display good correlation with shell-lag deposits observed in the gravity cores, although acoustic records lack the vertical resolution to detect variations in physical and acoustic properties on the order of those measured in this study. Calculated impedances at depths below 25 cm are significantly higher in the Dry Tortugas area and hence penetration of 4- and 15-kHz acoustic signals is less than at the Marquesas study site. From a geotechnical point of view, the sediments at both sites can be considered to behave like granular materials with little or no plasticity, no significant cementation, low compressibility, permeability highly dependent on void ratio, and moderate to high friction angles. A comparison with deep-sea sediments of mixed mineralogy shows that the effect of increasing calcium carbonate with decreasing clay content is to decrease plasticity and compressibility, and to increase friction angles. In other words, sediments shift from a cohesive to a granular nature as the carbonate content increases. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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Marine Geology