Sapropels are sediments rich in organic carbon occurring cyclically in the Mediterranean marine records and whose origin has been matter of great debate during the last decades. While the first sapropels were found in eastern Mediterranean sediments from the Miocene period, in this paper we focus on the layers that were subsequently found in sediment cores of Pliocene to Quaternary age from the eastern Mediterranean mostly. Since the very beginning of the history of studies on sapropels, authors inferred that those levels, being interbedded as dark layers in more or less normal light “open marine” sediments, formed during short-lived but catastrophic alterations in Mediterranean oceanographic conditions, probably linked to broader climate changes. In this paper, the main hypotheses regarding the origin of those sediments are described and we highlight the importance of sapropel records for the study of climatic and oceanographic variability in the Mediterranean area in the context of global climate change.
Mediterranean Sea, Plio-Pleistocene, Sapropel, Paleoclimate