Modern Coal-Forming Environments
Recent sedimentation patterns in the central Sumatra basin, Republic of Indonesia, may help to explain the cyclic stratigraphy of the Pennsylvanian System of the eastern United States. Modern influx of fluvial siliciclastic sediment to the epeiric seas of the Sunda shelf, including the Strait of Malacca, appears to be highly restricted by rain forest cover within the ever-wet climate belt of equatorial Sumatra. As a result, much of the marine and estuarine environments appear to be erosional or nondepositional except for localized deposition of sediment in slack water areas, such as the down-stream end of islands. Contemporaneously, thick (>13 m), laterally extensive (>70,000 km2), peat deposits are forming on poorly drained coastal lowlands. Modern peat formation in this study, therefore, is not coeval with aggrading fluvial siliciclastic systems, a situation that commonly is assumed in many depositional models of coal formation. The stratigraphy of Pleistocene and Holocene sediments on the Sunda shelf, as well as those of the Pennsylvanian System, appears to be better explained by the allocyclic controls of climate and sea-level change on sediment flux rather than by depositional models that are based on autocyclic processes. The objective of this paper is to evaluate allocyclic and autocyclic controls on sedimentation in an epeiric setting in a humid (ever-wet) tropical region. Of particular interest are the factors that control peat formation and siliciclastic sediment flux in rivers, estuaries, and open marine environments.