Sedimentation in Divergent Plate-Margin Basins

  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.ch7

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) Sedimentation in Divergent Plate-Margin Basins, 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.ch7

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, Allégt 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



  • divergent plate-margin basins;
  • sedimentation in divergent plate-margin basins;
  • tectonic evolution from rift to ocean;
  • continental rifts;
  • lithosphere generated rifts;
  • non-marine rift basins


Divergent plate-margin basins are dominantly extensional in character and commonly form initially in either mantle-generated or lithosphere-generated rift zones. Individual basins frequently undergo an evolution from syn-rift phase, with active block rotation, to a post-rift phase where more broadly based subsidence is controlled by thermal cooling. The region may eventually become a new passive continental margin. The depositional infill and resulting sedimentary architecture can be most problematic in the syn-rift phase where it is controlled largely by the interplay of fault-block geometry, rates of fault movement and drainage area characteristics, as well as climatic and sea-level changes.

Within non-marine half-grabens, with the Pangean Triassic basins as prime examples, there is a generally good documentation of infill architecture, although there is still some uncertainty about the controls on the relative abundance of footwall-, hanging-wall-and axially-derived sediments. In marine half-grabens, where a sediment gravity flow association commonly dominates, there is more uncertainty about infill architecture because of the variable balance between limited sediment supply, sea-level change and fault-block tilt rates. Except in half-grabens adjacent to large and easily eroded hinterlands the volume of footwall-derived sediments is commonly overestimated. Examples of post-rift and rift–drift transition successions are discussed from the northern North Sea and Red Sea areas.