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Two competing hypotheses can explain distal unconformities in foreland basin stratigraphy: peripheral-bulge migration with stress relaxation in the lithosphere (Quinlan and Beaumont, 1984, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, v. 21, p. 973) or orogen tectonics and basin-filling mechanisms (Flemmings and Jordan, 1990, Geology, v. 18, p. 335; Sinclair and others, in review). We investigate synthetically the origin of unconformities using the planform model (Johnson and Beaumont, abstract above). The figure shows an unconformity bounded sequence for one tectonic cycle, on a stress-relaxing lithosphere. I-type erosion occurs when constructive orogenic loading outstrips basin-filling and lithospheric relaxation. F-type erosion occurs when peripheral bulge migration with lithospheric-stress relaxation dominates. I- and F-type unconformities remain distinct when intervening sediments are preserved, otherwise the composite unconformity reflects the superposition of tectonic and relaxation dominated phases that may span several tectonic cycles.

Does synthetic basin stratigraphy provide the evidence to distinguish I- from F-type erosion and to determine which dominates?

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