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Alluvial architecture of the Holocene Rhine–Meuse delta (the Netherlands)



Ancient fluvial successions often act as hydrocarbon reservoirs. Sub-surface data on the alluvial architecture of fluvial successions are often incomplete and modelling is performed to reconstruct the stratigraphy. However, all alluvial architecture models suffer from the scarcity of field data to test and calibrate them. The purposes of this study were to quantify the alluvial architecture of the Holocene Rhine–Meuse delta (the Netherlands) and to determine spatio-temporal trends in the architecture. Five north–south orientated cross-sections, perpendicular to the general flow direction, were compiled for the fluvial-dominated part of the delta. These sections were used to calculate the width/thickness ratios of fluvial sandbodies (SBW/SBT) and the proportions of channel-belt deposits (CDP), clastic overbank deposits (ODP) and organic material (OP) in the succession. Furthermore, the connectedness ratio (CR) between channel belts was calculated for each cross-section. Distinct spatial and temporal trends in the alluvial architecture were found. SBW/SBT ratios decrease by a factor of ca 4 in a downstream direction. CDP decreases from ca 0·7 (upstream) to ca 0·3 (downstream). OP increases from less than 0·05 in the upstream part of the delta to more than 0·25 in the downstream delta. ODP is approximately constant (0·4). CR is ca 0·25 upstream, which is approximately two times larger than in the downstream part of the delta. Furthermore, CDP in the downstream Rhine–Meuse delta increases after 3000 cal yr BP. These trends are attributed to variations in available accommodation space, floodplain geometry and channel-belt size. For instance, channel belts tend to narrow in a downstream direction, which reduces SBW/SBT, CDP and CR. Tectonics cause local deviations in the general architectural trends. In addition, the positive correlation between avulsion frequency and the ratio of local to regional aggradation rate probably influenced alluvial architecture in the Rhine–Meuse delta. The Rhine–Meuse data set can be a great resource when developing more sophisticated models for alluvial architecture simulation, which eventually could lead to better characterizations of hydrocarbon reservoirs. To aid such usage of the Rhine–Meuse data set, constraints for relevant parameters are provided at the end of the paper.