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Facies characteristics and architecture related to palaeodepth of Holocene fjord–delta sediments

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Abstract

Lithofacies characteristics and depositional geometry of a sandy, prograding delta deposited as part of the Holocene valley-fill stratigraphy in the Målselv valley, northern Norway, were examined using morpho-sedimentary mapping, facies analysis of sediments in exposed sections, auger drilling and ground penetrating radar survey. Various lithofacies types record a broad range of depositional processes within an overall coarsening-upward succession comprising a lowermost prodelta/bottomset unit, an intermediate delta slope/foreset unit containing steeply dipping clinoforms and an uppermost delta plain/topset unit. Bottomset lithofacies typically comprise sand-silt couplets (tidal rhythmites), bioturbated sands and silts, and flaser and lenticular bedding. These sediments were deposited from suspension fall-out, partly controlled by tidal currents and fluvial effluent processes. Delta foreset lithofacies comprise massive, inverse graded and normal graded beds deposited by gravity-driven processes (mainly cohesionless debris flows and turbidity currents) and suspension fall-out. In places, delta foreset beds show tidal rhythmicity and individual beds can be followed downslope into bottomset beds. Delta plain facies show an upward-fining succession with trough cross-beds at the base, followed by planar, laminated and massive beds indicative of a bedload dominated river/distributary system. This study presents a model of deltaic development that can be described with reference to three styles within a continuum related primarily to water depth within a basin of variable geometry: (i) bypass; (ii) shoal-water; and (iii) deep-water deltas. Bypass and deep-water deltas can be considered as end members, whereas shoal-water deltas are an intermediate type. The bypass delta is characterized by rapid progradation and an absence of delta slope sediments and low basin floor aggradation due to low accommodation space. The shoal-water delta is characterized by rapid progradation, a short delta slope dominated by gravity-flow processes and a prodelta area characterized by rapid sea-floor aggradation due to intense suspension fallout of sandy material. Using tidal rhythmites as time-markers, a progradation rate of up to 11 m year−1 has been recorded. The deep-water delta is characterized by a relatively long delta slope dominated by gravity flows, moderate suspension fall-out and slow sea-floor aggradation in the prodelta area.

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