Abstract:—

The stratigraphic architecture of intracontinental rift basins is defined by a dynamic relationship between depositional processes associated with the basin floor and flanking tributary streams. The resulting depositional belts are sensitive to a variety of factors, including basin geometry, subsidence rate, and sediment discharge. The Experimental EarthScape run in 2006 (XES06) examined the development of fluvial morphology and alluvial architecture as a function of subsidence and sediment flux in an experimental basin based on the form of a simple half graben. Sediments from tributary drainages were introduced into the axial stream through toe cutting and realignment of transverse drainage courses to parallel the prevailing axial-flow direction. Transverse sediment contributions to the axial stream were almost equally apportioned over a wide range of sediment discharges tested in the experiments. Sediment tracers showed a larger contribution of footwall-derived sediment into the axial belt, probably due to more frequent and aggressive toe cutting by axial streams. Changes in the axial–transverse deposit boundary to external forcing (by subsidence and sediment discharge), and relatively rapid intrastage stabilization of the depositional belts, resembles the large-scale self-organization observed in moving boundaries that define the morphology of fluviodeltaic systems. Basin sedimentation was matched to subsidence in order to maintain a constant base level, which made the location and width of the axial belt sensitive to the relative sediment fluxes from the transverse systems, rather than the axis of maximum subsidence. The asymmetrical subsidence pattern and the transverse-fan morphology influenced the preservation of sedimentary sequences. Stage-bounding stratigraphic lacunae were well preserved in the hanging-wall succession, providing a reliable record of basin development.

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