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Abstract

The science of the internally generated behavior and spatial organization of depositional systems has come a long way since Beerbower first coined the term “autocycles” to refer to fining-upward sequences generated by river meander migration, cutoff, and eventual return. Ongoing research has broadened the scope and scale range of known autogenic dynamics, even as a unifying theme—sediment storage and release—has emerged. Many internally generated processes do not have a single characteristic length or time scale but rather occupy a broad scale range (hence, “autocyclic” has been gradually replaced by “autogenic”). But even where they are broad, the scale ranges for autogenic processes are bounded by limiting time and length scales. The central role of sediment storage and release provides a means of estimating these limiting length and time scales based on mass balance, geometry, and mean sediment flux. Recent research has also allowed us to expand the upper limits of autogenic behavior to time scales of 105 to 106 years. Finally, we recognize that autogenic dynamics is not simply superimposed on allogenic signals but interacts strongly with, modifies, and even destroys allogenic input. That the autogenic imprint on the stratigraphic record is stronger and more complex than once thought can be seen as an opportunity to focus on using the record to learn about intrinsic surface behavior under pre-human conditions, rather than simply as an archive of externally imposed signals.

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