The chronostratigraphic significance of seismic reflections along the Bahamas Transect

Gregor P. Eberli, Flavio S. Anselmetti, Dick Kroon, Tokiyuki Sato, James D. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Continuous cores drilled during the Bahamas Drilling Project (BDP) and the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 166 along a transect from the top of Great Bahama Bank to the basin in the Straits of Florida provide a unique data set to test the assumption in seismic stratigraphy that seismic reflections are time lines and, thus, have a chronostratigraphic significance. Seismic reflections that are identified as seismic sequence boundaries (SSBs) were dated by means of biostratigraphy in the five ODP sites and by a combination of biostratigraphy, magnetostratigraphy and Sr isotope stratigraphy in the two BDP sites. The seismic reflection horizons are carried across a variety of facies belts from shallow-water carbonates over slope carbonates to drift deposits in the Straits of Florida. Within this system 17 SSBs were identified and dated. Despite the fact that the seismic reflections cross several facies belts, their ages remain remarkably constant. The average offset in all sites is 0.38 Myr. In no cases do the seismic reflections cut across time lines. The age differences are the combined result of the biostratigraphic sampling frequency, the spacing of marker species that required extrapolation of ages, and the resolution of the seismic data. In addition, uncertainties of age determination in the proximal sites where age-diagnostic fauna are rare add to the age differences between sites. Therefore, it can be concluded that the seismic reflections, which mark the SSBs along the Bahamas Transect, are time lines and can be used as stratigraphic markers. This finding implies that depositional surfaces are preferentially imaged by reflected seismic waves and that an impedance contrast exists across these surfaces. Facies successions across the sequence boundaries indicate that the sequence boundaries coincide with the change of deposition from times of high to low sea level. In the carbonate setting of Great Bahama Bank, sea-level changes produce changes in sediment composition, sedimentation rate and diagenesis from the platform top to the basin. The combination of these factors generates differences in sonic velocity and, thus, in impedance that cause the seismic reflection. The impedance contrasts decrease from the proximal to the distal sites, which is reflected in the seismic data by a decrease of tile seismic amplitude in the basinal area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Bahamas
  • Bahamas Drilling Project
  • Carbonates
  • Chronostratigraphy
  • Ocean Drilling Program
  • Seismic sequence stratigraphy
  • Sequence boundary


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