Abstract

Early models of stratigraphic sequence development across continental margins predicted terrigenous sediment delivery to the deep sea principally during periods of sea-level fall and lowstand. However, subsequent models acknowledged caveats to these early predictions. We employ a global database of millennial-scale continental-margin deep-sea deposition rates, activities of canyon-channel systems, and episodes of submarine-fan growth since 35 ka to assess the timing of terrigenous sediment delivery to the deep sea. As predicted by the early models, the majority of continental-margin deep-sea deposition occurred during periods of marine transgression and lowstand of sea level. However, deep-sea deposition is shown to have occurred at all sea-level states, and some deep-sea fans predominantly grew during periods of sea-level highstand. Terrigenous sediment delivery to the deep sea depends on factors such as tectono-morphologic character of the margin (e.g., narrow shelves) and climatic forcings (e.g., subglacial meltwater and monsoonal pulses). A fundamental understanding of the tectonic and climatic forcings inherent to a continental margin and its terrestrial sediment source area is essential to accurately predict timing and magnitude of deep-sea deposition and place it in the context of sequence stratigraphy.

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