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Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

Influence of water and sediment supply on the stratigraphic record of alluvial fans and deltas: Process controls on stratigraphic completeness

Authors

  • Kyle M. Straub,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
    • Corresponding author: K. M. Straub, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA. (kmstraub@tulane.edu)

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  • Christopher R. Esposito

    1. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
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Abstract

[1] Stratigraphy contains the most complete record of information necessary to quantitatively reconstruct paleolandscape dynamics, but this record contains significant gaps over a range of time and space scales. These gaps result from stasis on geomorphic surfaces and erosional events that remove previously deposited sediment. Building on earlier statistical studies, we examine stratigraphic completeness in three laboratory experiments where the topography of aggrading deltas was monitored at high temporal and spatial scales. The three experiments cover unique combinations in the absolute magnitudes of sediment and water discharge in addition to generation of accommodation space through base-level rise. This analysis centers on three time scales: (1) the time at which a record is discretized (t), (2) the time necessary to build a deposit with mean thickness equivalent to the maximum roughness on a surface (Tc), and (3) the time necessary for channelized flow to migrate over all locations in a basin (Tch). These time scales incorporate information pertaining to the time-variant topography of actively changing surfaces, kinematics by which the surfaces are changing, and net deposition rate. We find that stratigraphic completeness increases as a function of t/Tc but decreases as a function of Tc/Tch over the parameter space covered in the experiments. Our results suggest that environmental signals disconnected from a sediment routing system are best preserved in systems with low Tc values. Nondimensionalizing t by Tc, however, shows that preservation of information characterizing system morphodynamics is best preserved in stratigraphy constructed by systems with low water to sediment flux ratios.

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