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In this paper we investigate the relative effects of intraplate stress level fluctuations and eustatic sea-level changes on foreland basin stratigraphy using forward numerical models. The role played by growth of an evolving orogenic wedge is incorporated. The models show that the effect of stress level fluctuations can be as significant as the effect of eustatic sea-level change. Stress level variations and eustasy can be discriminated in models without orogenic wedge growth because of the asymmetric stratigraphic patterns produced by stress. Models with growth of the orogenic wedge, in contrast, show that asymmetric patterns can also be produced by orogenic wedge growth accompanied by an eustatic sea-level drop. Models adopting a stress level relaxation predict patterns compatible to those produced by isostatic rebound. Therefore, it is suggested that backward reconstructions of generic mechanisms for stratigraphic patterns are preferably not based on these patterns only, and require a combination with sediment provenance, petrological, and structural studies.

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