3 years ago

Can sediment supply variations create sequences? Insights from stratigraphic forward modelling

Jinyu Zhang, Peter M. Burgess, Didier Granjeon, Ronald Steel


Classic sequence stratigraphy suggests depositional sequences can form due to changes in accommodation and due to changes in sediment supply. Accommodation‐dominated sequences are problematic to define rigorously, but are commonly interpreted from outcrop and subsurface data. In contrast, supply‐dominated sequences are much less commonly identified. We employ numerical stratigraphic forward modelling to compare stratal geometries forced by cyclic changes in relative sea level with stratal geometries forced by sediment discharge and water discharge changes. Our quantitative results suggest that both relative sea‐level oscillations and variations in sediment/water discharge ratio are able to form sequence‐bounding unconformities independently, confirming previous qualitative sequences definitions. In some of the experiments, the two types of sequence share several characteristics, such as an absence of coastal‐plain topset deposits and stratal offlap, something typically interpreted as the result of falling relative sea level. However, the stratal geometries differ when variations in amplitude and frequency of relative sea‐level change, sediment/water discharge ratio, transport diffusion coefficient and initial bathymetry are applied. We propose that the supply‐dominated sequences could be recognised in outcrop or in the subsurface if the observations of stratal offlap and the absence of coastal‐plain topset can be made without any strong evidence of relative sea‐level fall (e.g. descending shoreline trajectory). These quantitative results suggest that both supply‐dominated and accommodation‐dominated sequences are likely to occur in the ancient record, as a consequence of multiple, possibly complex, controls.

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