Post-Depositional Alteration and Preservation of Sedimentary Strata

  1. Charles A. Nittrouer,
  2. James A. Austin,
  3. Michael E. Field,
  4. Joseph H. Kravitz,
  5. James P. M. Syvitski and
  6. Patricia L. Wiberg
  1. Robert A. Wheatcroft1,
  2. Patricia L. Wiberg2,
  3. Clark R. Alexander3,
  4. Samuel J. Bentley4,
  5. David E. Drake5,
  6. Courtney K. Harris6 and
  7. Andrea S. Ogston7

Published Online: 25 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304398.ch3

Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy

Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy

How to Cite

Wheatcroft, R. A., Wiberg, P. L., Alexander, C. R., Bentley, S. J., Drake, D. E., Harris, C. K. and Ogston, A. S. (2007) Post-Depositional Alteration and Preservation of Sedimentary Strata, in Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy (eds C. A. Nittrouer, J. A. Austin, M. E. Field, J. H. Kravitz, J. P. M. Syvitski and P. L. Wiberg), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304398.ch3

Author Information

  1. 1

    College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA

  2. 2

    Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA

  3. 3

    Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Savannah, GA 31411, USA

  4. 4

    Earth Sciences Department, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's NL A1B 3X5, Canada

  5. 5

    Drake Marine Consulting, Ben Lomond, CA 95005, USA

  6. 6

    Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, VA 23062, USA

  7. 7

    School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 MAR 2009
  2. Published Print: 17 JUL 2007

Book Series:

  1. Special Publication Number 37 of the International Association of Sedimentologists

Book Series Editors:

  1. Ian Jarvis

Series Editor Information

  1. School of Earth Sciences & Geography, Centre for Earth & Environmental Science Research, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2EE, UK

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405169349

Online ISBN: 9781444304398



  • post-depositional alteration and sedimentary strata preservation;
  • consolidation - all sediment deposited on seafloor subject to post-depositional consolidation;
  • sediment erosion, transport and deposition contributing to post-depositional alteration of sediment beds;
  • fluid forcing;
  • critical shear stress and sediment erodibility;
  • biological alteration - sediment-associated animal activities;
  • key dynamical bed property alteration;
  • biogenic sedimentary structures;
  • key role of episodic sedimentation;
  • dissipation times


All s ediment that is delivered to the seabed is subject to post-depositional alteration before it becomes part of the preserved stratigraphic record. Physical and biological processes occurring in the upper few decimetres of the seabed alter newly deposited sediment, thereby creating the fine-scale sedimentary record. The geographical region of focus is the Eel margin of northern California, where a combination of high precipitation, frequent winter storms and intense benthic biological processes exert fundamental controls on the fine-scale stratigraphy. Major findings are that:

1 although the wave conditions on the Eel shelf are highly energetic, only a few millimetres to one or two centimetres of bed material are typically put in suspension during storms;

2 despite a high initial porosity (i.e. low strength), flood beds quickly become resistant to erosion;

3 shelf macrofauna show considerable resilience to deposition of flood sediment;

4 storm deposits have a low preservation potential on open continental margins;

5 episodic sedimentation is key to preservation of strata and signals produced by flood and storm events.

Future insight into post-depositional alteration will benefit from focused observations and theoretical modelling that explicitly couple physical and biological processes on multiple time-scales.