Seascape Evolution on Clastic Continental Shelves and Slopes

  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. Lincoln F. Pratson1,
  2. Charles A. Nittrouer2,
  3. Patricia L. Wiberg3,
  4. Michael S. Steckler4,
  5. John B. Swenson5,
  6. David A. Cacchione6,
  7. Jeffery A. Karson1,
  8. A. Bradley Murray1,
  9. Matthew A. Wolinsky1,
  10. Thomas P. Gerber1,
  11. Beth L. Mullenbach7,
  12. Glenn A. Spinelli8,
  13. Craig S. Fulthorpe9,
  14. Damian B. O'grady10,
  15. Gary Parker11,
  16. Neal W. Driscoll12,
  17. Robert L. Burger13,
  18. Christopher Paola14,
  19. Daniel L. Orange15,
  20. Michael E. Field16,
  21. Carl T. Friedrichs17 and
  22. Juan J. Fedele14

Published Online: 25 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304398.ch7

Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy

Continental Margin Sedimentation: From Sediment Transport to Sequence Stratigraphy

How to Cite

Pratson, L. F., Nittrouer, C. A., Wiberg, P. L., Steckler, M. S., Swenson, J. B., Cacchione, D. A., Karson, J. A., Murray, A. B., Wolinsky, M. A., Gerber, T. P., Mullenbach, B. L., Spinelli, G. A., Fulthorpe, C. S., O'grady, D. B., Parker, G., Driscoll, N. W., Burger, R. L., Paola, C., Orange, D. L., Field, M. E., Friedrichs, C. T. and Fedele, J. J. (2007) Seascape Evolution on Clastic Continental Shelves and Slopes, 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.ch7

Author Information

  1. 1

    Earth & Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

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

  4. 4

    Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA

  5. 5

    Department of Geological Sciences, University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN 55812, USA

  6. 6

    Coastal & Marine Environments, Redwood City, CA 94065, USA

  7. 7

    Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA

  8. 8

    Department of Geological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA

  9. 9

    Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78759, USA

  10. 10

    ExxonMobil Development Co., Houston, TX 77252, USA

  11. 11

    Department of Civil Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA

  12. 12

    Geosciences Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

  13. 13

    Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA

  14. 14

    St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

  15. 15

    AOA Geophysics, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA

  16. 16

    Coastal & Marine Geology Program, US Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA

  17. 17

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



  • seascape evolution on clastic continental shelves and slopes;
  • morphology of clastic continental margin directly reflecting formative processes;
  • from bathymetry to seascape evolution;
  • processes governing shelf width and slope relief;
  • processes forming shelf profile - rivers, deltas and growth of coastal plain;
  • bedload deposition, sediment plumes and clinoforms;
  • seafloor failure and submarine groundwater flow;
  • bottom shear from internal waves;
  • processes creating submarine canyons and slope gullies


The morphology of clastic continental margins directly reflects their formative processes. These include interactions between plate movements and isostasy, which establish the characteristic stair-step shape of margins. Other factors are thermal and loading-induced subsidence, compaction and faulting/folding, which create and/or destroy accommodation space for sediment supplied by rivers and glaciers. These processes are primary controls on margin size and shape. Rivers and glaciers can also directly sculpt the margin surface when it is subaerially exposed by sea-level lowstands. Otherwise, they deposit their sediment load at or near the shoreline. Whether this deposition builds a delta depends on sea level and the energy of the ocean waves and currents. Delta formation will be prevented when sea level is rising faster than sediment supply can build the shoreline. Vigorous wave and current activity can slow or even arrest subaerial delta development by moving sediments seaward to form a subaqueous delta. This sediment movement is accomplished in part by wave-supported sediment gravity flows. Over the continental slope, turbidity currents are driven by gravity and, in combination with slides, cut submarine canyons and gullies. However, turbidity currents also deposit sediment across the continental slope. The average angle of continental slopes (∼4°) lies near the threshold angle above which turbidity currents will erode the seafloor and below which they will deposit their sediment load. Therefore, turbidity currents may help regulate the dip of the continental slope. Internal waves exert a maximum shear on the continental-slope surface at about the same angle, and may be another controlling factor.