Exploring the role of organic matter accumulation on delta evolution



[1] We explore the role of plant matter accumulation in the sediment column in determining the response of fluvial-deltas to base-level rise and simple subsidence profiles. Making the assumption that delta building processes operate to preserve the geometry of the delta plain, we model organic sedimentation in terms of the plant matter accumulation and accommodation (space made for sediment deposition) rates. A spatial integration of the organic sedimentation, added to the known river sediment input, leads to a model of delta evolution that estimates the fraction of organic sediments preserved in the delta. The model predicts that the maximum organic fraction occurs when the organic matter accumulation rate matches the accommodation rate, a result consistent with field observations. The model also recovers the upper limit for coal accumulation previously reported in the coal literature. Further, when the model is extended to account for differences in plant matter accumulation between fresh and saline environments (i.e., methanogenesis versus sulfate reduction) we show that an abrupt shift in the location of the fresh-salt boundary can amplify the speed of shoreline retreat.