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Provenance and depositional variability of the Thin Mud Facies in the lower Ganges-Brahmaputra delta,West Bengal Sundarbans, India

Flood, RP and Barr, Iestyn and Weltje, GJ and Roberson, S and Russell, MI and Meneely, J and Orford, JD (2018) Provenance and depositional variability of the Thin Mud Facies in the lower Ganges-Brahmaputra delta,West Bengal Sundarbans, India. Marine Geology, 395. pp. 198-218. ISSN 0025-3227

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Abstract

The Sundarbans is one of the largest coastal wetland sites in the world and covers an area of approximately one million hectares of the western delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra (G-B) rivers (located across Bangladesh and India). Since the late Holocene, the western delta has not been directly fluvially sourced, due to the Ganges shift to the east (present-day Bangladesh). The depositional facies (Thin Mud Facies) of the late-Holocene abandoned western region (The Sundarbans) is derived from dominant estuary-tidal dynamics, however the provenance of the associated TMF sedimentation in this far western zone (Indian Sundarbans per se) is as yet equivocal. In this study, sediment cores from the Indian Sundarbans (Saptamukhi-Thakuran estuary) were closely examined for grain-size distributions (GSDs), mineralogy through X-ray diffraction (XRD), and geochemistry with X-ray fluorescence (XRF). The TMF in the West Bengal Sundarbans has been determined to show intensively weathered, terrestrial sediment, derived principally from the Ganges Alluvial Plain (GAP). There is a predominance of quartz, mica and clay minerals, with quartz interpreted as a product of low-relief tropical weathering sourced via the G-B Rivers draining the Himalayas. Lithofacies interpreted through GSD analysis of the TMF is indicative of a muddy tidal flat environment with aggradation and a general fining-up trend between the adjacent estuaries. The sediment provenance indicates a continuing G-B sediment source, which moves westward along the Bay of Bengal, from the active delta front and is then reworked over the far-western abandoned delta by tidal–estuarine forcing.

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