Identifying the physical processes that control the stratigraphic record

Authors


Abstract

The stratigraphic record, the sequential layers of sediment that geologists use to reconstruct the history of a landscape, has been described as “more gaps than record.” The record, laid down over time as sediment settles out from flowing water, does not grow consistently. Pauses in sediment deposition can leave gaps, and periods of heightened erosion can wipe out sections. Although attempts have been made to identify the processes that control the completeness of the stratigraphic record, early analyses relied on parameters (such as the long-term sediment accumulation rate) that are not first-order physical landscape processes.