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Transgressive/regressive facies cycle analysis combines the approaches of sequence stratigraphy at outcrop/core/well-log scales and seismic stratigraphy at seismic scales (large-scale stratal pattern and termination), to determine the facies stacking pattern and the partitioning of sediments following long-term changes in shelfal accommodation. Thus, it is an interdependent approach with the main purpose being to build a hierarchy of stratigraphic cycles.

The building blocks of transgressive/regressive (T/R) facies cycles are 3rd-order depositional sequences. Four types of 3rd-order depositional sequences may develop within a 2nd-order transgressive/regressive facies cycle: infilling and forestepping during the regressive phase and aggrading and backstepping during the transgressive phase. These four types of sequences do not occur systematically together within a second-order cycle. Four end-members of T/R cycles can be defined depending on (1) the capability of sediment deposition to keep up with relative sea-level rises; (2) the rates at which accommodation space changes. The four end-members will include (1) T/R cycle with or without aggrading sequences and (2) T/R cycles with or without forestepping sequences.

About 18 T/R cycles have been found within the Western European Mesozoic stratigraphic successions. At the craton scale, some of the characteristic surfaces and events are very synchronous. This synchroneity suggests a tectono-eustatic control. Cycles which are not synchronous within a basin usually result from variations in local sea-floor subsidence/uplift. This can be seen particularly in the syn-rift and syn-compressional successions.

Both the type and occurrence of 3rd-order sequences (in respect to stratigraphy, depositional environments, reservoirs, source rocks and facies) depends of the type of 2nd-order cycle to which they belong. A full understanding of these characteristics observed in the data is essential to the analysis of the stratigraphic signature of a basin.

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