Marine notches in the Maltese islands (central Mediterranean Sea)

Stefano Furlani, Fabrizio Antonioli, Timmy Gambin, Ritienne Gauci, Andrea Ninfo, Enrico Zavagno, Anton Micallef, Franco Cucchi

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We present the first detailed survey of tidal notches in the central Mediterranean area, in particular along the coastline of Gozo and Comino (Malta). The Maltese Islands represent one of the few sites in the Sicily Channel which exhibits coastal carbonate rocks. Marine notches on the islands of Gozo and Comino were surveyed by means of a seven day continuous snorkeling survey around the entire perimeter of the two islands. We surveyed the occurrence, lack and typology of marine notches and we correlated them with late Holocene sea level changes. Sea temperature (T) and electrical conductivity (EC) were collected along the route in order to locate the submarine springs and to relate them to the surveyed notches. A well-carved continuous roof notch was discovered along most of the plunging cliffs. It is well-carved out, in particular along the northern and western coast of Gozo. It develops from about 0.2 m above the mean sea level down and it can be up to 1.5–2 m deep. On the contrary, tidal notches are localised only in 8 sites. In 2 sites, Vermetid trottoirs develop at low tide level. In addition, at about −7 m to −10 m m.s.l., a 2–5 m wide marine terrace develops along extensive tracts of plunging cliffs, always in correspondence with the roof notches. This submerged terrace seem to be the result of the late Holocene slowdown of the sea level rise, which started to smooth the terrace and to carve out the submerged part of the roof notch, thanks to the exposed location of the islands and the favourable lithology. Through the collection of hydrological data, the presence of 21 submarine springs were detected. They occur mainly in the south-western coast of Gozo and on eastern coast of Comino. Anyway, marine notches seem not to be related to the freshwater outflow, such as those in the Adriatic Sea, because the studied islands are very exposed. As a consequence, along the Maltese islands bioerosion seems to be the most effective process in notch development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158 - 168
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes

Cite this

Furlani, S., Antonioli, F., Gambin, T., Gauci, R., Ninfo, A., Zavagno, E., Micallef, A., & Cucchi, F. (2017). Marine notches in the Maltese islands (central Mediterranean Sea). Quaternary International, 439, 158 - 168.