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Stacked fluvial and tide-dominated estuarine deposits in high-frequency (fourth-order) sequences of the Eocene Central Basin, Spitsbergen

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Abstract

Eighteen coastal-plain depositional sequences that can be correlated to shallow- to deep-water clinoforms in the Eocene Central Basin of Spitsbergen were studied in 1 × 15 km scale mountainside exposures. The overall mud-prone (>300 m thick) coastal-plain succession is divided by prominent fluvial erosion surfaces into vertically stacked depositional sequences, 7–44 m thick. The erosion surfaces are overlain by fluvial conglomerates and coarse-grained sandstones. The fluvial deposits show tidal influence at their seaward ends. The fluvial deposits pass upwards into macrotidal tide-dominated estuarine deposits, with coarse-grained river-dominated facies followed further seawards by high- and low-sinuosity tidal channels, upper-flow-regime tidal flats, and tidal sand bar facies associations. Laterally, marginal sandy to muddy tidal flat and marsh deposits occur. The fluvial/estuarine sequences are interpreted as having accumulated as a series of incised valley fills because: (i) the basal fluvial erosion surfaces, with at least 16 m of local erosional relief, are regional incisions; (ii) the basal fluvial deposits exhibit a significant basinward facies shift; (iii) the regional erosion surfaces can be correlated with rooted horizons in the interfluve areas; and (iv) the estuarine deposits onlap the valley walls in a landward direction. The coastal-plain deposits represent the topset to clinoforms that formed during progradational infilling of the Eocene Central Basin. Despite large-scale progradation, the sequences are volumetrically dominated by lowstand fluvial deposits and especially by transgressive estuarine deposits. The transgressive deposits are overlain by highstand units in only about 30% of the sequences. The depositional system remained an estuary even during highstand conditions, as evidenced by the continued bedload convergence in the inner-estuarine tidal channels.

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