Stratigraphic architecture, bedload extraction, and mass balance of Holocene fluvial sediments in a tectonically subsiding basin within the Ganges-Brahmaputra River delta, Bangladesh
The Brahmaputra River occupied the tectonically active Sylhet Basin in eastern Bangladesh three times during the Holocene. With samples from more than 200 closely-spaced (3-5 km) boreholes, we take advantage of these discrete channel occupations and the high trapping efficiency of the subsiding basin to investigate dispersal of fluvial sediments. Experiment and theory suggest that depositional units transition from channels to lobes as transported sediment mass declines below ~30% of the total measured at the basin head. We test these ideas by reconstructing the geometry and grain size distributions of a large (30 m thick x 80 km wide) sand lobe formed during the mid-Holocene occupation (~7000-4000 years BP) of Sylhet Basin. Based on estimates of modern sediment discharge in the system, the volume of this sediment lobe is insufficient to account for the entire sediment budget. The smaller sediment volume is likely a consequence of reduced sediment discharge during a weakened monsoon. Additional sediment is likely to have also been routed out of the basin via an outlet located approximately along the modern Meghna River channel. Facies within Sylhet Basin can be characterized as stacked braidbelt sands in the proximal portion of the system, with isolated sand lenses further downstream, indicating a transition from a highly mobile braidbelt to a less mobile distributary system. The majority of bed load is extracted within a distance of ~150 km from the avulsion node, approximately coincident with the regional backwater reach of the Bengal Basin, suggesting a link between the hydraulic and “morphodynamic” backwater reaches of the system. Downstream fining is more rapid in sediments associated with the long-term occupation of Sylhet Basin, for which sediment is trapped over a relatively short distance within the sand wedge of central Sylhet Basin, than those from the early- and late-Holocene occupations, for which sediment is distributed over a longer path that follows the course of the Old Brahmaputra River. Fine-grained sediments preserved in the system do not display measureable downstream fining. The increased rate of sediment extraction in the eastern part of the basin is likely coupled with a subsidence maximum (~7 mm/year) associated with the foredeep of the Dauki thrust fault.