The East African Rift System (EARS) exerted a major influence on river drainage basins and regional climate of east Africa during the Cenozoic. Recent studies have highlighted an offshore branch of the EARS in the western Indian Ocean, where the Kerimbas Graben and the Davie Ridge represent its sea floor expression. To date, a clear picture of the impact and timing of this EARS offshore branch on the continental margin of the western Indian Ocean, and associated sediment dispersal pathways, is still missing. This study presents new evidence for four giant canyons along the northern portion of the Davie Ridge offshore Tanzania. Seismic and multibeam bathymetric data highlight that the southernmost three canyons are now inactive, supra-elevated relative to the adjacent sea floor of the Kerimbas Graben and disconnected from the modern slope systems offshore the Rovuma and Rufiji River deltas. Regional correlation of dated seismic horizons, integrated with well data and sediment samples, proves that the tectonic activity driving the uplift of the Davie Ridge in this area has started during the middle-upper Miocene and is still ongoing, as suggested by the presence of fault escarpments at the sea floor and by the location and magnitude of recent earthquakes. Our findings contribute to placing the Kerimbas Graben and the Davie Ridge offshore Tanzania in the regional geodynamic context of the western Indian Ocean and show how the tectonics of the offshore branch of the EARS modified the physiography of the margin, re-routing the deep-water drainage network since the middle Miocene. Future studies are needed to understand the influence of changing sea floor topography on the western Indian Ocean circulation and to evaluate the potential of the EARS offshore tectonics in generating tsunamigenic events.
Maselli, V., Kroon, D., Iacopini, D., Wade, B. S., Pearson, P. N., & de Haas, H. (2019). Impact of the East African Rift System on the routing of the deep-water drainage network offshore Tanzania, western Indian Ocean. Basin Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/bre.12398