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Sequence stratigraphy is a way of analyzing stratigraphic successions, and represents an approach to studying the organization of sedimentary rocks. Consequently, there is no one "stratigraphic model", but rather an infinite number of variations on the general theme. What has come to be known as sequence stratigraphy thus is a collection of "first principles", based on the interactions of four key variables: eustasy, vertical movement of the substrate (including the effects of tectonics, isostatic and flexural loading, and compaction), physiography (i.e., the shape of the land surface and the sea-floor surface, width of shelf, proximity to sediment sources, etc.), and sediment flux (a function of climate, vegetative cover, stream piracy, etc.). How these variables interact determines the evolution and stratal architecture of a basin fill. These variables also determine the nature of key bounding surfaces, as well as the stratal architecture within sequences and systems tracts.

Sequence stratigraphy, at its best, represents an integration of disciplines, as well as an integration of various types of data. As such, sequence stratigraphy does not constitute a separate entity. The sequence-stratigraphic approach should never take the place of other approaches, but should be used in conjunction with them. Consequently, sequence stratigraphy should not take the place of facies analysis, nor should it take the place of depositional-systems analyses, for example. Rather, the sequence-stratigraphic approach should complement and embrace these other analytical approaches (Posamentier and James, 1993).

A common misconception that has led to some confusion srounds the role of eustasy in determining sequence architecure

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