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Marine Sand Resources Offshore Israel

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The continental margin of northern Sinai and Israel, up to Haifa Bay, is the northeastern limb of the submarine Nile Delta Cone. It is made up predominantly of clastics from the Nile and its predecessors. The continental shelf and coastal plain of Israel are built of a series of shore-parallel ridges composed of carbonate-cemented quartz sandstone (locally named kurkar), a lithification product of windblown sands that were piled up into dunes during the Pleistocene. The drop in global sea level and regression during the last glacial period exposed the continental shelf to subaerial erosion and created a widespread regional erosional unconformity which is expressed as a prominent seismic reflector at the top of the kurkar layers. The subsequent Holocene transgression abraded much of the westernmost kurkar ridges, drowned their cores, and covered the previous lowstand deposits with marine sands, which were in turn covered by a sequence of sub-Recent clayey silts. The Mediterranean coasts of Sinai and Israel are part of the Nile littoral cell. Since the building of the Aswan dams the sand supplied to Israel's coastal system is derived mainly from erosion of the Nile Delta and from sands offshore Egypt that are stirred up by storm waves. The sands are transported by longshore and offshore currents along the coasts of northern Sinai and Israel. Their volume gradually declines northward with distance from their Nile source. The longshore transport terminates in Haifa Bay where some sand is trapped, and the test escapes to deeper water by bottom currents and through submarine canyons, thus denying Nile-derived sand supply to the 40-km-long 'Akko-Rosh Haniqra shelf. The sand balance along Israel's coastal zone is a product of natural processes and human intervention. Losses due to the outgoing longshore transport, seaward escape, and landward wind transport exceed the natural gains from the incoming longshore transport and the abrasion of the coastal cliffs. The deficit is aggravated by the construction of (1) seaward-projecting structures that trap sands on the upstream side and (2) offshore detached breakwaters that trap sands between themselves and the coast. The negative sand balance is manifested by the removal of sand from the seabed and the consequent exposure of archaeological remains that were hitherto protected by it. The sediments that escape seaward from the longshore transport system form a 2.5- to 4-km-wide sandy apron adjacent to the shore that extends to where the water is 30 - 40 m deep. The apron's slope (0.5 - 0.8) is steeper than the theoretical equilibrium slope for the median grain-size diameter in this zone (0.1 - 0.3 mm). The beach sands and the apron's surficial sands are well sorted. Their grain size decreases with distance from shore, from 0.2 - 0.3 mm nearshore to 0.11 - 0.16 mm by the drowned ridge. The coarse-grained fraction consists of skeletal debris (commonly 5 - 12% carbonate matter) and wave-milled kurkar grains (locally named zifzif). In deeper water, the basal sands underlying the fine-grained sediment cover consist of 1- to 30-cm layers whose composition ranges from silty sands to various types of sands (fine, medium, coarse, and gravelly) to zifzif. For the most part, they contain large amounts of skeletal debris (20 - 60%) and small fragments of kurkar. Two types of kurkar rock were encountered offshore: a well-sorted, fine- to medium-grained (0.074 - 0.300 mm) lithified dune sand with variable amounts of carbonate cement, ranging from hard rock of low permeability to loose sand; and a porous sandstone made up predominantly of algal grains and skeletal debris (calcarenite).
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Keywords: COASTAL SAND BALANCE; HOLOCENE SEDIMENTATION; ISRAEL'S CONTINENTAL SHELF; SUBMARINE KURKAR

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2000

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