ABSTRACT

Construction of continental margins is driven by sediment transported across the shelf to the shelf edge, where it is reworked by wave, tide, and fluvial processes in deltas and flanking clastic shorelines. Stalling of continental-margin progradation often results in degradation of the outer shelf to upper slope, with resedimentation to the lower slope and basin floor via a range of sediment gravity flows and mass-movement processes. Typically, our understanding of how these processes contribute to the long-term development of continental margins has been limited to observations from broadly two-dimensional, subsurface and outcrop datasets. Consequently, the three-dimensional variability in process regime and margin evolution is poorly constrained and often underappreciated. We use a large (90 km by 30 km, parallel to depositional strike and dip, respectively) post-stack time-migrated 3D seismic-reflection dataset to investigate along-strike variations in shelf-margin progradation and outer-shelf to upper-slope collapse in the Santos Basin, offshore SE Brazil. Early Paleogene to Eocene progradation of the shelf margin is recorded by spectacularly imaged, SE-dipping clinoforms. Periodic failure of the outer shelf and upper slope formed ca. 30-km-wide (parallel to shelf-margin strike) slump scars, which resulted in a strongly scalloped upper-slope. Margin collapse caused: 1) the emplacement of slope-attached mass-transport complexes (MTCs) (up to ca. 375 m thick, 12+ km long, 20 km wide) on the proximal basin floor, and 2) accommodation creation on the outer shelf to upper slope. This newly formed accommodation was infilled by shelf-edge-delta clinoforms (up to 685 m thick), that nucleated and prograded basinward from the margin-collapse headwall scarp, downlapping onto the underlying slump scar and/or MTCs. Trajectory analysis of the shelf-edge deltas suggests that slope degradation-created accommodation was generated throughout the sea-level cycle, rather than during base-level fall as would be predicted by conventional sequence-stratigraphic models. Our results highlight the significant along-strike variability in depositional style, geometry, and evolution that can occur on this and other continental margins. Coeval strata, separated by only a few kilometers, display strikingly different stratigraphic architectures; this variability, which could be missed in 2D datasets, is not currently captured in conventional 2D sequence stratigraphic models.

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