Abstract

The present work reports the main results obtained from recent seafloor-mapping activities carried out offshore from south-western Albania. The area explored consists of two distinctive physiographic units: the Vlora Gulf (which is bounded to the west by the Karaburun Peninsula) and the upper continental slope offshore from the western side of the Karaburun Peninsula. Along these areas, 500 km2 of multibeam echo–sounder coverage, about 2500 km of chirp-sonar data, and 200 km2 of side-scan sonar mosaic (100–500 kHz) were acquired. This new acoustic data set was collected by two different oceanographic expeditions, which were carried out in the framework of the Centro Internazionale di Scienze del Mare (CISM) project (supported by Interreg III Italia–Albania), which focused on studying, through a multidisciplinary approach, the geological setting and the ecosystem conditions of a poorly investigated area of the Adriatic Sea, such as the Vlora Gulf. The investigated area incorporates water depths measurements from 5 m down to 57 m, whereas the offshore margin of the Karaburun Peninsula has been investigated down to 900 m water depth.

The acquired high-resolution multibeam bathymetry, combined with the described chirp-sonar echo-types, documents how the recent evolution of the Vlora Gulf is strictly dependent on complex, sedimentary dynamics established in this area. Here, the Vjose River is the dominant source of sediment for the continental shelf. We provided evidences that the (Vjose River) sediment distribution is under the control of a complex, local circulation pattern that is defined by the peculiar regional shape of the gulf which is tectonically controlled. The tectonic control on the present-day, sedimentary processes is also evident offshore from the Karaburun Peninsula, along the upper slope, where important resedimentation processes have been recognized and are related to the recent geodynamic evolution of the margin.

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