The sedimentary record of erg (eolian sand sea) migration consists of an idealized threefold division of sand-sea facies sequences. The basal division, here termed the fore-erg, is composed of a hierarchy of eolian sand bodies contained within sediments of the flanking depositional environment. These sand bodies consist of eolian strata deposited by small dune complexes, zibars, and sand sheets. The fore-erg represents the downwind, leading edge of the erg and records the onset of eolian sedimentation.
Basin subsidence coupled with erg migration places the medial division, termed the central erg, over the fore-erg strata. The central erg, represented by a thick accumulation of large-scale, cross-stratified sandstone, is the product of large draa complexes. Eolian influence on regional sedimentation patterns is greatest in the central erg, and most of the sand transported and deposited in the erg is contained within this region.
Reduction in sand supply and continued erg migration will cover the central-erg deposits with a veneer of back-erg deposits. This upper division of the erg facies sequence resembles closely the fore-erg region. Similar types of eolian strata are present and organized in sand bodies encased in sediments of the upwind flanking depositional environment(s). Back-erg deposits may be thin due to limited eolian influence on sedimentation or incomplete erg migration, or they may be completely absent because of great susceptibility to postdepositional erosion.
Tectonic, climatic, and eustatic influences on sand-sea deposition will produce distinctive variations or modifications of the idealized erg facies sequence. The resulting variants in the sedimentary record of erg migration are illustrated with ancient examples from western North America, Europe, southern Africa, and South America.