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Giant dune morphologies and dynamics in a deep continental shelf environment: example of the banc du four (Western Brittany, France)

Abstract : The aim of this paper is to improve the knowledge of spatio-temporal variability of very large to giant dunes in deep tide dominated environment. Their growth mechanisms and dynamic evolution still remain in debate and constitute a significant scientific challenge in regard to difficulties to achieve accurate measures of migrations. This motivated the realization of three recent swath bathymetry surveys across the wide dune field of the Banc du Four located offshore the western Brittany. The Banc du Four field is composed of more than 500 large dunes exhibiting a great diversity of morphologies ranging from 2D to 3D shapes and reaching the largest sizes of such sedimentary structure ever described (wavelength over 1000 m and height over 30 m). The analysis of the entire ensemble of dune parameters offers the opportunity to discuss the relative influence of forcings and the validity of the equations predicting the bedform geometry in shallow waters. Our results show a good height-spacing power law correlation but do not strike the usual statistical regression observed in previous studies. The steeper positive slope of the equation and the outstanding values of the height parameter reveal the complexity of local hydrodynamic regime, interacting with bed load transport and sediment supply. No clear relationship has been observed between asymmetry and size parameters. Water depth can not be considered as a major factor controlling the size of dunes. Otherwise, the vertical sedimentary variation suggests the action of storm waves on dune crests and the horizontal migration rates of dunes in the eastern field of the Banc du Four were found to range from 3 to 20 m.yr- 1. Such velocities were only mentioned before by Van Landeghem et al. (2012) on deep continental shelves (> 70 m deep) and attest of the still present morphodynamical equilibrium of the large dunes. Furthermore, as was previously found for similar dunes in the Irish Sea, no power-law relationship between dune migration rates and dune size can be deduced. Similarly, no strong correlation is established between migration rates and the degree of asymmetry. Nevertheless, the dune asymmetry can be used to predict the migration direction. As for dimension parameters, the evolution asymmetry depends on the study area and migration rates. More precisely, when the crest lines of dunes form straight lines and their migration rates remain below 8-10 m.yr- 1, the degree of dune asymmetry increases with the migration rate. This trend is reversed for the dunes with higher migration velocities and crests which are sinuous. These results relativize the migratory predictions based on punctual geometrical observations.
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Marcaurelio Franzetti, Pascal Le Roy, Christophe Delacourt, Thierry Garlan, Romain Cancouët, et al.. Giant dune morphologies and dynamics in a deep continental shelf environment: example of the banc du four (Western Brittany, France). Marine Geology, Elsevier, 2013, 346 (1), pp.17-30. ⟨10.1016/j.margeo.2013.07.014⟩. ⟨insu-00855516⟩

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