Abstract: 

Changes in sediment supply and caliber during the last ∼ 130 ka have resulted in a complex architectural evolution of the Y channel system on the western Niger Delta slope. This evolution consists of four phases, each with documented or inferred changes in sediment supply. Phase 1 flows created wide (1,000 m), low-sinuosity (1.1) channel forms with lateral migration and little to no aggradation. During Phase 2, the Y channel system began to aggrade, creating more narrow (300 m) and sinuous (1.4) channel forms with many meander cutoffs. This system was abandoned at ∼ 130 ka, perhaps related to rapid relative sea-level rise during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5. Phase 3 flows were mud-rich and deposited sediment on the outer bends of the channel form, resulting in the narrowing (to 250 m), straightening (to a sinuosity of 1.22), and aggradation of the Y channel system. Renewed influx of sand into the Y channel system occurred with Phase 4 at ∼ 50 ka, during MIS 3 sea-level fall. The onset of Phase 4 is marked by the initiation of the Y′ tributary channel, which re-established sand deposition in the Y channel system. Flows entering the Y channel from the Y′ channel were underfit, resulting in inner levee deposition that is most prevalent on outer banks, acting to further straighten (1.21) and narrow (to 200 m wide) the Y channel. The inner levees accumulated quickly as the flows sought equilibrium, with deposition rates > 200 cm/ky. Marked by the presence of the last sand bed, abandonment occurred at ∼ 19 ka in the Y channel and ∼ 15 ka in the Y′ channel and is likely related to progressive abandonment due to shelf-edge delta avulsion and/or progressive sea level rise associated with Melt Water Pulse 1-A. The muddy, 5-meter-thick Holocene layer has thickness variations that mimic those seen in the sandy part of Phase 4, suggesting that dilute, muddy flows continue to affect the modern Y channel system. This unique dataset allows us to unequivocally link changes in submarine channel architecture to variations in sediment supply and caliber. Changes in the updip sediment routing system (i.e., the channel “plumbing”) are shown to have profound implications for submarine channel architecture and reservoir connectivity.

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