Tectonic Signatures in Sedimentary Basin Fills: An Overview

  1. L. E. Frostick3 and
  2. R. J. Steel4
  1. L. E. Frostick1 and
  2. R. J. Steel2

Published Online: 16 APR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304053.ch1

Tectonic Controls and Signatures in Sedimentary Successions

Tectonic Controls and Signatures in Sedimentary Successions

How to Cite

Frostick, L. E. and Steel, R. J. (1994) Tectonic Signatures in Sedimentary Basin Fills: An Overview, in Tectonic Controls and Signatures in Sedimentary Successions (eds L. E. Frostick and R. J. Steel), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304053.ch1

Editor Information

  1. 3

    Reading, UK

  2. 4

    Bergen, Norway

Author Information

  1. 1

    Postgraduate Research Institute for Sedimentology, University of Reading, Reading RG6 2AB, UK

  2. 2

    Department of Geology, University of Bergen, Alléget 41–5007, Bergen, Norway

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 APR 2009
  2. Published Print: 28 FEB 1994

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780632037452

Online ISBN: 9781444304053



  • tectonic controls and signatures in sedimentary successions;
  • tectonic signatures in sedimentary basins;
  • signatures in sedimentary basins;
  • present-day river drainage in East African Rift system;
  • factors influencing basin fill characters;
  • changing topography and deflecting river damage


The recognition of tectonic signatures within the sedimentary rock record gives important insights into the evolution of basins at a variety of scales. It can help to define both basin type and its shape by identifying the location and character of active faults. At this scale the sedimentary response to tectonism is encapsulated in the broad architecture of the basin fill and in the distribution of sedimentary facies in space and time. Evidence of tectonism is held within the geometry of the fill and within the sedimentary pile at the megasequence scale. At a more detailed scale, sediments can also yield data which can be used to infer the timing and rates of fault movement. Tectonic signatures at this scale can range from the character of individual sequences down to details of single beds, as is the case for some slumped deposits which can be connected with specific earthquakes (e.g. in the marginal lake sediments of Bogoria, Kenya) (McCall, 1967; Tiercelin, 1990).

Recognition of the role of tectonism in controlling sediment character gives the basin analyst the potential for forward modelling. Once the location and programme of fault activity is known, it is possible to predict cross-basin patterns of facies and how they are likely to change through time. Conversely, in situations where the patterns of fault activity are poorly understood, recognizable responses in the sedimentary fill can provide the basis for tectonic interpretation. Such predictions have economic implications since they can allow petroleum geologists to infer the likely locations of both source rocks and potential reservoirs and to establish the timing of any structural modification. This helps to confirm the juxtaposition of an oil source, migration pathway and trap at an apposite time. The identification of tectonic signatures is therefore central both to basin analysis and to the development of exploration strategies.