Cariaco Basin

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Cariaco Basin
Cuenca Cariaco
Map showing the location of Cariaco Basin
Map showing the location of Cariaco Basin
Location of the basin offshore Venezuela
Cariaco Basin, Venezuela
Coordinates10°30′N 65°10′W / 10.500°N 65.167°W / 10.500; -65.167
EtymologyGulf of Cariaco
LocationCaribbean Sea
Country Venezuela
BoundariesMargarita Island, Cubagua, Araya Peninsula, Tortuga Island, Tortuga Banks, Cape Codera, Farallón Centinela, Venezuelan coast
Sea(s)Gulf of Cariaco
 Caribbean Sea
Basin typePull-apart basin
AgeEarly Miocene-Holocene

The Cariaco Basin lies off the north central coast of Venezuela and forms the Gulf of Cariaco. It is bounded on the east by Margarita Island, Cubagua Island, and the Araya Peninsula; on the north by Tortuga Island and the Tortuga Banks; on the west by Cape Codera and the rocks known as Farallón Centinela; and on the south by the coast of Venezuela.


The Cariaco Basin is an east-west trending pull-apart basin[1] located on the continental shelf off the eastern coast of Venezuela. It is a deep depression composed of two sub-basins, the eastern basin and the western basin, each of about 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) depth, separated by a saddle of approximately 900 metres (3,000 ft) water-depth. To the south, the basin confines with the wide (~50 km) Unare Platform.

It is connected to the open Caribbean Sea through two shallow (around 140 metres (460 ft)) channels, to the north the (Tortuga Channel) and to the west the (Centinela Channel). Water circulation inside the basin is restricted, which, combined with the high annual primary productivity of the region (~500 gCm−2yr−1), causes the basin to be permanently anoxic, below ~250 m.[2][3] This naturally occurring anoxic basin allows for sediments to be deposited without bioturbation, forming varves of alternating light and dark color, which correspond to the dry or rainy season.[4] Its unique geography and undisturbed sediment record provides an excellent history of tropical climate change and is particularly sensitive to shifts in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) [5] and has been the subject of extensive paleoclimatological research, amongst other sedimentological studies,[6][7][8] geochemical studies, with alkenones,[9] Mg/Ca,[10] and micropaleontological, with foraminifera,[11][12] pollen and spores,[13] dinocysts[14][15] and coccoliths.[16]

Anoxic basin[edit]

Because of its anoxia, the Cariaco Basin has also a unique chemistry. Bacteria inhabit both the oxic and anoxic portions of the water column, with a maximum around the interface where oxygen disappears.[17] This 'interface' oscillates between 200 and 300 meters. As such unique location, the Cariaco Basin has been the site of a variety of studies since the mid-1950s. Since 1995, an international (Venezuela and United States) program has expanded the research in the basin. The CARIACO (Carbon Retention in a Colored Ocean; [1] Archived 2013-12-06 at the Wayback Machine) program consists of a time series station in the eastern deep of the basin which is visited on a monthly basis to collect hydrographic, nutrient and primary productivity measurements. A suite of other measurements, including a sediment trap mooring, microbiological studies and current measurements are also conducted at this site. The work that has resulted from the CARIACO ocean time series program has demonstrated that this anoxic basin is quite dynamic and has helped understand the paleoclimatic record stored in the basin's sediments.[18][19][20]


The Cariaco Basin is an example of upwelling zone ecosystems.[21] The seasonal upwelling cycle and sea surface temperature changes are linked to the intensity of the trade winds, and cause events of high primary production that support a very high biomass of plankton, fish, and marine birds and mammals. The seasonal productivity drives the abundance of sardines and attract dolphins.[22][23][24] The waters are also home to several species of whales (such as rorquals and humpback),[25][26] and orcas.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schubert, C. (1982). Origin of the Cariaco Basin, Southern Caribbean Sea. Mar. Geol., 47: 345-360.
  2. ^ Muller-Karger, F. E., R. Varela, R. Thunell, M. Scranton, R. Bohrer, G. Taylor, J. Capelo, Y. Astor, E. Tappa, T. Y. Ho, and J. J. Walsh. (2001). Annual Cycle of Primary Production in the Cariaco Basin: Response to upwelling and implications for vertical export.[permanent dead link] J. Geophys. Res. 106:C3. 4527-4542.
  3. ^ Muller-Karger, F. E., R. Varela, R. Thunell, Y. Astor, H. Zhang, and C. Hu. (2004). Processes of Coastal Upwelling and Carbon Flux in the Cariaco Basin. Deep-Sea Research Part II.[permanent dead link] Special Issue: Views of Ocean Processes from the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) Mission: Volume 2 - Edited by D. A. Siegel, A. C. Thomas and J. Marra. Vol 51/10-11 pp 927–943.
  4. ^ Haug, G. H., K. A. Hughen, D. M. Sigman, L. C. Peterson and U. Rohl (2001). Southward Migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone Through the Holocene. Science, 293: 1304-1308
  5. ^ Peterson, L. C., G.H. Haug (2006). Variability in the mean latitude of the Atlantic Intertropical Convergence Zone as recorded by riverine input of sediments to the Cariaco Basin (Venezuela). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 234(1):97-113
  6. ^ Peterson, L.C., Haug, G.H., Murray, R.W., Yarincik, K.M., King, J.W., Bralower, T.J., Kameo, K., Rutherford, S.D. and Pearce, R.B. 2000b: Late Quaternary stratigraphy and sedimentation at site 1002, Cariaco Basin (Venezuela). In Leckie, R.M., Sigurdsson, H., Acton, G.D. and Draper, G. (eds.): Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific results 165, 85–99, College station, TX (Ocean Drilling Program).
  7. ^ Peterson, L.C. & Haug, G.H. 2006: Variability in the mean latitude of the Atlantic Intertropical Convergence Zone as recorded by riverine input of sediments to the Cariaco Basin (Venezuela). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 234, 97-113.
  8. ^ Piper, D. & Dean, W.E. 2002: Trace-element deposition in the Cariaco Basin under sulfate reducing conditions—a history of the local hydrography and global climate, 20 ka to the present. US Geological Survey Professional Paper 1670, 41 pp.
  9. ^ Herbert, T.D. & Schuffert, J.D. 2000: Alkenone unsaturation estimates of sea-surface temperatures at site 1002 over a full glacial cycle. Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Results 165, 239-247
  10. ^ Lea, D.W., Pak, D.K., Peterson, L.C. & Hughen, K.A. 2003: Synchroneity of Tropical and High-Latitude Atlantic temperatures over the Last Glacial Termination. Science 301, 1361-1364.
  11. ^ Peterson, L.C., Overpeck, J.T., Kipp, N.G. and Imbrie, J. 1991: A high–resolution late Quaternary upwelling record from the anoxic Cariaco Basin, Venezuela, Paleoceanography 6, 99–119.
  12. ^ Lin, H.-L., Peterson, L.C., Overpeck, J.T., Trumbore, S.E. & Murray, D.W. 1997: Late Quaternary climate change from δ18O records of multiple species of planktonic foraminifera: high-resolution records from the anoxic Cariaco Basin, Venezuela. Paleoceanography 12, 415-427.
  13. ^ González, C., Dupont, L.M., Behling, H. & Wefer, G. 2008a: Neotropical vegetation response to rapid climate changes during the last glacial period: palynological evidence from the Cariaco Basin. Quaternary Research 69, 217-230.
  14. ^ González, C., Dupont, L. M., Mertens, K.N., Wefer, G. (2008). Reconstructing the history of marine productivity of the Cariaco Basin during the Marine Isotope Stages 3 and 4 using organic-walled dinoflagellate cysts. Paleoceanography 23, PA3215, doi:10.1029/2008PA001602.
  15. ^ Mertens, K. N., González, C., Delusina, I. & Louwye, S. (2009). 30000 years of productivity and salinity variations in the late Quaternary Cariaco Basin revealed by dinoflagellate cysts. Boreas 38, 647-662.
  16. ^ Mertens, K.N., Lynn, M., Aycard, M., Lin, H.-L. & Louwye, S. (2009). Coccolithophores as paleoecological indicators for shift of the ITCZ in the Cariaco Basin. Journal of Quaternary Science 24 (2), 159-174.
  17. ^ Taylor, G. T., M. I. Scranton, M. Iabichella, T.-Y. Ho, R. C. Thunell, R. Varela, and F. E. Muller-Karger. 2001 Chemoautotrophy in the redox transition zone of the Cariaco Basin: A significant source of mid-water organic carbon production. Limnology and Oceanography. Vol. 46, no. 1. 148-163.
  18. ^ Smoak, JM, Benitez-Nelson, C., Moore, WS, Thunell, RC, Astor, Y. and F. Muller-Karger (2004) "Radionuclide fluxes and particle scavenging in Cariaco Basin" Archived July 11, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Continental Shelf Research 24, 1451-1463.
  19. ^ Thunell, R., R. Varela, M. Llano, J. Collister, F. Muller-Karger, and R. Bohrer. (2000). Organic carbon flux in an anoxic water column: sediment trap results from the Cariaco Basin.[permanent dead link] Limnology and Oceanography. 45. 300-308.
  20. ^ Tedesco, K. and Thunell, R., (2003) Seasonal and interannual variations in planktonic foraminiferal flux and assemblage composition in the Cariaco Basin, Venezuela. Journal of Foraminiferal Research 33, 192-210.
  21. ^ Watermeyer, KE; Gregr, EJ; Rykaczewski, RR; Shannon, LJ; Suthers, IM; Keith, DA (2020). "M1.9 Upwelling zones". In Keith, D.A.; Ferrer-Paris, J.R.; Nicholson, E.; Kingsford, R.T. (eds.). The IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology 2.0: Descriptive profiles for biomes and ecosystem functional groups. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. doi:10.2305/IUCN.CH.2020.13.en. ISBN 978-2-8317-2077-7. S2CID 241360441.
  22. ^ Golf de Cariaco, Venezuela. Retrieved on April 16, 2017
  23. ^ Oviedo L. Esteves A. M.. Acevedo R.. Silva N.. Bolan~os-jime’nez J. Quevedo M. A.. Ferna’ndez M.. 2009. Abundance, distribution and behaviour of common dolphins, Delphinus spp., off north-eastern Venezuela: implications for conservation and management (pdf). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. doi:10.1017/S002531540999097X. Retrieved on April 16, 2017
  24. ^ Oviedo L.. Ecology of Neritic Odontocete Cetaceans in an Upwelling Ecosystem in the Northeast Coast of Venezuela: Delphinus Spp, Sotalia guianensis. The Rufford Foundation. Retrieved on April 16, 2017
  25. ^ en el golfo de cariaco ballena en el golfo de cariaco. Retrieved on April 16, 2017
  26. ^ Swartz L. S.. Cole T.. McDonald A.M.. Hildebrand A. J.. Oleson M. E.. Martínez A.. Clapham J.P.. Barlow J.. Jones L. M.. 2003. Acoustic and Visual Survey of Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Distribution in the Eastern and Southeastern Caribbean Sea Archived 2012-09-04 at the Wayback Machine (pdf). Caribbean Journal of Science. Vol. 39. No.2. pp.195–208. The University of Puerto Rico. Retrieved on April 16, 2017
  27. ^ Bolaños-Jiménez J.. Fertl D.. Iñiguez M.. 2009. Killer whale (Orcinus orca) occurrence in Venezuelan waters, 1982-2008. doi:10.5597/lajam00138. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals (LAJAM). 7(1-2). ISSN 1676-7497. pp.75-79. The ResearchGate. Retrieved on April 16, 2017