A long-standing goal of sedimentary geoscience is to understand how tectonic and climatic changes are reflected in basin fill. Here, we use 14 numerical models of continental-scale sediment-routing systems spanning millions of years to investigate the responses of sediment supply and basin sedimentation to changes in uplift and precipitation in the source area. We also investigate the extent to which these signals can be altered by relative sea level (the sum of subsidence and eustasy). In cases of constant relative sea level, sediment supply and margin progradation have similar responses because nearly all of the sediment is transported beyond the coastal plain and continental shelf to the basin margin. Thus, margin progradation can be used as a proxy for sediment supply. However, changes in uplift and precipitation result in different erosional patterns in the source area and different basin-margin depositional patterns. Changes in uplift result in gradual (over several million years) adjustment to new steady states of source-area erosion and margin progradation, whereas changes in precipitation result in abrupt changes in erosion and progradation followed by a return to the initial steady states. In cases of changing relative sea level, sediment storage on the shelf attenuates signals of uplift, but signals of precipitation change can be interpreted in the basin-margin record because climate-induced sediment supply changes are large enough to influence margin progradation. Understanding the relationship between sediment supply and basin-margin progradation, and their linked responses to forcings, improves our ability to interpret signals of environmental change in the stratigraphic record.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.