Geochemical data of marine mud sediments collected from the Esaro, Neto and Corigliano canyons in the northern Ionian Sea (southern Italy) were investigated in order to characterize canyon bathymetry types. Mud sample compositions analyzed by the principal component analysis (PCA) provided useful information for the morphology of the depositional area of the northern Ionian Sea. The use of sediment geochemical data as well as transportation distance and depth as input variables for PCA enabled the extraction of following latent variables: basin depth (PC1), sedimentation rate (PC2) and transportation distance (PC3). Based on these results, we further developed geochemical indices that can estimate basin depth (F1), sedimentation rate (F2) and transportation distance (F3); these functions can be solely calculated from the elemental concentration data of the mud samples. Since these F1, F2 and F3 functions are mathematically independent variables, they facilitate more precise characterization of individual canyon types. That is, the Esaro Canyon is regarded as a sediment-starved deep canyon characterized by a single source area; the Neto Canyon can be seen as a deeply sloped submarine apron system and sediments are mainly supplied by the sediment gravity flows; the Corigliano Canyon is characterized by multiple sources and moderately sloped system, whose sediments disperse mainly by traction currents. These interpretations are concordant with the basin bathymetry of the studied area. Therefore, F1, F2 and F3 functions might be applicable to any oceanic basins.
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