Sediment Flux from Stratigraphy: Insights from <1 Ma to >300 Ma Sedimentary Archives
Abstract:Tectonic or climate signals that originate in net-erosional catchments are transmitted down-system as sediment. The accumulation of that sediment in net-depositional regions and preservation as stratigraphy can be accessed and used to reconstruct signal generation and propagation. Studies of modern to <20 ka sedimentary systems suggest that signal propagation (or lack thereof) is, in part, controlled by the size, relief, and other morphologic characteristics of sediment-production segments. Thus, it’s critical to measure, estimate, or infer aspects of the feeder catchment when reconstructing system behavior from sedimentary deposits.
Here, we present results from two studies aimed at determining paleo-sediment flux from stratigraphic archives. The first study uses outcropping middle Pleistocene (~0.6 Ma) alluvial-fan deposits in the Panamint Mountains, California, to investigate the relationship of sediment supply to stratigraphic architecture in a small catchment-fan system. The youth of this system allows us to estimate fan volumes from facies architecture and depositional system dimensions based on catchment-area to fan-area relationships of nearby modern systems. These data, combined with preliminary cosmogenic radionuclide-derived paleo-denudation rates, provide an opportunity to examine the nature of erosional signal propagation.
The second study examines much older, Upper Mississippian (~325 Ma), fluvial and deltaic strata. Absolute chronologic tools to calculate centennial-millennial rates in deep-time sedimentary archives do not yet exist. Here, we use the extraordinary tidal rhythmite deposits of the Pride Shale in the Appalachian Basin as a high-resolution chronometer to constrain the duration of basin filling. We then use the scale of fluvial channel bodies in the underlying and overlying units combined with climate-specific empirical relationships derived from modern systems to estimate the size of the paleo-catchment. The resultant estimates of sediment yield allow calculation of denudation rates for a system in which the catchment has long-since eroded.