ABSTRACT

Spatial point-pattern analyses (PPAs) are used to quantify clustering, randomness, and uniformity of the distribution of channel belts in fluvial strata. Point patterns may reflect end-member fluvial architecture, e.g., uniform compensational stacking and avulsion-generated clustering, which may change laterally, especially at greater scales. To investigate spatial and temporal changes in fluvial systems, we performed PPA and architectural analyses on extensive outcrops of the Cretaceous John Henry Member of the Straight Cliffs Formation in southern Utah, USA. Digital outcrop models (DOMs) produced using unmanned aircraft system-based stereophotogrammetry form the basis of detailed interpretations of a 250-m-thick fluvial succession over a total outcrop length of 4.5 km. The outcrops are oriented roughly perpendicular to fluvial transport direction. This transverse cross-sectional exposure of the fluvial system allows a study of the system's variation along depositional strike. We developed a workflow that examines spatial point patterns using the quadrat method, and architectural metrics such as net sand to gross rock volume (NTG), amalgamation index, and channel-belt width and thickness within moving windows. Quadrat cell sizes that are ∼ 50% of the average channel-belt width-to-thickness ratio (16:1 aspect ratio) provide an optimized scale to investigate laterally elongate distributions of fluvial-channel-belt centroids. Large-scale quadrat point patterns were recognized using an array of four quadrat cells, each with 237× greater area than the median channel belt. Large-scale point patterns and NTG correlate negatively, which is a result of using centroid-based PPA on a dataset with disparately sized channel belts. Small-scale quadrat point patterns were recognized using an array of 16 quadrat cells, each with 21× greater area than the median channel belt. Small-scale point patterns and NTG correlate positively, and match previously observed stratigraphic trends in the fluvial John Henry Member, suggesting that these are regional trends. There are deviations from these trends in architectural statistics over small distances (hundreds of meters) which are interpreted to reflect autogenic avulsion processes. Small-scale autogenic processes result in architecture that is difficult to correlate between 1D datasets, for example when characterizing a reservoir using well logs. We show that 1D NTG provides the most accurate prediction for surrounding 2D architecture.

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