The first systematic test for a predictive relationship between organic carbon content and stratigraphic hierarchy in a deep-water slope to basin-floor deposit was performed. The studied section includes the Pipeline Shale, the Brushy Canyon Formation, and the lower part of the Cherry Canyon Formation of the Delaware Mountain Group, West Texas. This interval represents one large-scale, 3rd-order genetic sequence within which 4th- and 5th-order stratigraphic cycles are recognized. Samples of fine-grained facies throughout the section were collected from outcrop and analyzed for organic carbon content and hydrogen index. Degree of pyritization was also determined for a subset of the samples. The results indicate that organic enrichment is closely correlated to the stratigraphic hierarchy at the 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-order levels. The data suggest that quantity and quality of preserved organic matter are controlled by changes in bulk sedimentation rate (dilution vs. condensation), which affect organic matter inputs to the sediment, as well as the balance between (1) burial and preservation of organic matter and (2) its degradation on the sea floor during times of sediment starvation.

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