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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 77 (1993)

Issue: 7. (July)

First Page: 1208

Last Page: 1218

Title: Geomorphic Thresholds and Complex Response of Fluvial Systems--Some Implications for Sequence Stratigraphy

Author(s): William A. Wescott (2)


First-generation sequence stratigraphic models have dealt in a very rudimentary fashion with the response of fluvial systems to eustasy. A major element of presently accepted models is that rivers incise when sea level falls and aggrade during the ensuing rise. Well-established geomorphic principles state that fluvial systems are complex, process-response systems that can adjust to internal and external changes in other ways besides incision and aggradation by modifying their stream patterns and channel geometries.

Application of geomorphic principles to sequence stratigraphic models results in the following observations. During eustatic lowstands, rivers may adjust to lowered base levels and changes in slope by modifying channel patterns. Therefore, not all lowstands produce type 1 sequence boundaries. Type 1 sequence boundaries characterized by fluvial-valley incision are more likely to develop when sea level drops below the shelf-slope break, resulting in topological relief near the strandline in which headwardly eroding knickpoints form. Rates of eustatic change, although rapid in a geological context, are sufficiently low that geomorphic systems can easily maintain their equilibrium during eustatic changes and migrate back and forth across the shelf without major modifications. Finally, und r conditions of relatively static sea level, sequences and parasequences of the same scale in time and space as those which form during eustatic change can be deposited as the result of purely intrinsic causes and responses of a fluvial system. In general, eustasy controls the location of deposition and erosion, but the resultant stratal geometry is controlled by sediment supply and processes acting on the sediments as the shoreline moves across the shelf in response to eustasy.

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