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ABSTRACT

Shoreline and shelf-edge trajectories describe the migration through time of sedimentary systems, using geomorphological breaks-in-slope that are associated with key changes in depositional processes and products. Analysis of these trajectories provides a simple descriptive tool that complements and extends conventional sequence stratigraphic methods and models. Trajectory analysis offers four advantages over a sequence stratigraphic interpretation based on systems tracts: (1) each genetically related advance or retreat of a shoreline or shelf edge is viewed in the context of a continuously evolving depositional system, rather than as several discrete systems tracts; (2) subtle changes in depositional response (e.g. within systems tracts) can be identified and honoured; (3) trajectory analysis does not anticipate the succession of depositional events implied by systems-tract models; and (4) the descriptive emphasis of trajectory analysis does not involve any a priori assumptions about the type or nature of the mechanisms that drive sequence development. These four points allow the level of detail in a trajectory-based interpretation to be directly tailored to the available data, such that the interpretation may be qualitative or quantitative in two or three dimensions. Four classes of shoreline trajectory are recognized: ascending regressive, descending regressive, transgressive and stationary (i.e. nonmigratory). Ascending regressive and high-angle (accretionary) transgressive trajectories are associated with expanded facies belt thicknesses, the absence of laterally extensive erosional surfaces, and relatively high preservation of the shoreline depositional system. In contrast, descending regressive and low-angle (nonaccretionary) transgressive trajectories are associated with foreshortened and/or missing facies belts, the presence of laterally extensive erosional surfaces, and relatively low preservation of the shoreline depositional system. Stationary trajectories record shorelines positioned at a steeply sloping shelf edge, with accompanying bypass of sediment to the basin floor. Shelf-edge trajectories represent larger spatial and temporal scales than shoreline trajectories, and they can be subdivided into ascending, descending and stationary (i.e. nonmigratory) classes. Ascending trajectories are associated with a relatively large number and thickness of shoreline tongues (parasequences), the absence of laterally extensive erosional surfaces on the shelf, and relatively low sediment supply to the basin floor. Descending trajectories are associated with a few, thin shoreline tongues, the presence of laterally extensive erosional surfaces on the shelf, and high sediment supply to basin-floor fan systems. Stationary trajectories record near-total bypass of sediment across the shelf and mass transfer to the basin floor.