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Summary Article: submarine canyon
From Encyclopedia of Environmental Change

A steep-sided sea-floor valley that cuts across the continental shelf and continental slope, losing topographic expression at the base of the slope or on the continental rise where it may evolve into a deep-sea channel with levées. Submarine canyons resemble river-cut subaerial canyons (see canyon) with sinuous or straight planform expressions, and tributary systems, whereas deep-sea channels usually have distributary patterns. Many submarine canyons feed large submarine fans. Submarine canyons may be cut into basement rocks or continental shelf sediments, and their spacing is related to slope gradient. Their length and size are related to their age: canyons incise headwards and thus older canyons cross the continental shelves, whereas younger canyons are little more than excavated gullies at or beyond the shelf break. In some countries, submarine canyons have been chosen as sites for waste disposal.


  • Harris, P T; Obrien, P E; Quilty, P et al. (1999) Sedimentation and continental slope processes in the vicinity of an ocean waste-disposal site, southeastern Tasmania.Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 46: 577-591.
  • Hüneke, H; Mulder, T (eds) (2010) Deep sea sediments.Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.
  • Kudrass, H R; Michels, K H; Wiedicke, M; Suckwo, A (1998) Cyclones and tides as feeders of a submarine canyon off Bangladesh.Geology 26: 715-718.
  • Masson, D G; Tyler, P A (2011) The geology, geochemistry and biology of submarine canyons west of Portugal: Introductory remarks.Deep-Sea Research II 58: 2317-2320.
Bryan T. Cronin
University of Aberdeen
Jennifer Pike
Cardiff University
© by SAGE Publications Ltd.

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