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Sedimentology and Stratigraphy

Sediment transported by
Suspension load is when sediments are carried in
suspension (usually fine-grained sediments that can
be carried along easily by the flow)
Bed load is when the forward force of the moving
current acts more directly on the larger particles at
the bottom as it pushes, rolls, and slides them along
Saltation is more complex and usually affects sandsized particles. Here, the particles are sucked up by
eddies into the flow, travel with the flow for a while,
and then fall back to the bottom

Sediment structures
Asymmetrical ripples are ripples that have a
gentle slope upstream and a steep slope
Cross-bedding is inclined bedding and
commonly forms in alluvial environments.
Potholes are rounded depressions caused by
swirling currents and eddies.
Mud cracks are formed by evaporation on
mudflats or in shallow lakes.

Sedimentary environments

Alluvial Fans
Alluvial fans are sedimentary deposits that typically
form at the margins of a dry basin.
They typically contain coarse boulders and gravels
and are poorly sorted.
Fine-grained sand and silt may be deposited near the
margin of the fan in the valley, commonly in shallow
These lakes may periodically dry, and evaporite
deposits may result.

Wind is an effective sorting agent and will
selectively transport sand.
Gravel is left behind and dust-sized particles
are lifted high into the atmosphere and
transported great distances.
Windblown sand forms dunes that are
characterized by well-sorted grains showing
large-scale crossbedding.

Glaciers do not effectively sort the materials
that they transport.
Common type of resulting deposit is an
unstratified accumulation of boulders, gravel,
sand, and fine silt for which the term "till" is
usually applied.

Fluvial environments include braided and
meandering river and stream systems.
River channels, bars, levees, and floodplains are
parts (or subenvironments) of the fluvial
Channel deposits consist of coarse, rounded gravel,
and sand.
Bars are made of sand or gravel.
Levees are made of fine sand or silt.
Floodplains are covered by silt and clay.

Flood Plains
Rivers commonly meander across a flat flood
plain before reaching the sea and depositing a
considerable amount of sediment.
Rocks formed in a flood plain environment are
commonly lenses of "fluvial" sandstone
deposited in the meander channel enclosed in
a shale deposited on the flood plain.

Lacustrine environments (or lakes) are
diverse; they may be large or small, shallow or
deep, and filled with terrigenous, carbonate,
or evaporitic sediments.
Fine sediment and organic matter settling in
some lakes produced laminated oil shales.

Deltas are large accumulations of sediment that are deposited
where a river empties into a standing body of water.
They are one of the most significant environments of
sedimentation and include a number of subenvironments
such as stream channels, flood plain beaches, bars, and tidal
The deposit as a whole consists of a thick accumulation of
sand, silt, and mud.
Because of the abundance of vegetation in geologically young
deltaic environments, coals of various ranks commonly are
associated with these clastic sediments.

Swamps (Paludal environments) Standing
water with trees. Coal is deposited.

Beaches, bars, and spits commonly develop along
low coasts and partly enclose quiet-water lagoons.
Such sediments are well washed by wave action and
is typically clean, well-sorted quartz sand.
Behind the bars and adjacent to the beaches, tidal
flats may occur where fine silt and mud are
deposited; evaporites may be present locally.
Barrier islands

Lagoons are bodies of water on the landward side of barrier
islands. They are protected from the pounding of the ocean
waves by the barrier islands, and contain finer sediment than
the beaches (usually silt and mud). Lagoons are also present
behind reefs, or in the center of atolls.
Tidal flats border lagoons. They are periodically flooded and
drained by tides (usually twice each day). Tidal flats are areas
of low relief, cut by meandering tidal channels. Laminated or
rippled clay, silt, and fine sand (either terrigenous or
carbonate) may be deposited. Intense burrowing is common.
Stromatolites may be present if conditions are appropriate.

The continental shelf is the flooded edge of the

The continental slope and continental rise are
located seaward of the continental shelf.
The abyssal plain is the deep ocean floor.

Shallow Marine
Shallow seas are widespread along continental margins and
were even more extensive during many periods of the
geologic past.
Sediments deposited in these shallow marine waters from
extensive layers of well-sorted sand, shale, limestone, and
dolomite, that commonly occur in a cyclic sequence as a
result of shifting depositional environments related to
changes in sea level.
When the rate of evaporation exceeds the rate of water
supply, chemicals dissolved in the water may be concentrated
and precipitated as beds of gypsum, halite, and more complex

Organic Reef
An organic reef is a structure built of the shells and secretions
of marine organisms.
The framework of geologically young reefs typically is built by
corals and algae, but the reef community includes many types
of organisms.
A highly fossiliferous limestone commonly is the result of
these organisms in the rock record.
Reworking of reef-derived sediments by wave and biological
activities commonly results in a complex group of
sedimentary facies that may be referred to as the reef tract.
Reefs are wave-resistant, mound-like structures made of the
calcareous skeletons of organisms such as corals and certain
types of algae.

Deep Ocean
The deep oceans contain a variety of sediment types. Adjacent to the
continents, a considerable amount of sediment is transported from the
continental margins by turbidity currents.
As the current moves across the deep-ocean floor its velocity gradually
decreases, and sediment carried in suspension settles out.
The resulting deposit is a widespread layer of sediment in which the size
of grains grade from coarse at the base to fine at the top.
Such deep-sea deposits are characterized by sequences of graded beds of
these "turbidites".
Distant to the continents, dust transported by eolian processes may
accumulate as muds.
In sediment-starved parts of oceans away from the continents, siliceous
ooze formed of the tests of microorganisms called radiolaria accumulate.
These sediments form the radiolarian cherts of the rock record.

Facies and depositional environments

The facies concept refers to the sum of characteristics of a
sedimentary unit, commonly at a fairly small (cm-m) scale

Grain size
Sedimentary structures
Biogenic content

Lithofacies (physical and chemical characteristics)

Biofacies (macrofossil content)
Ichnofacies (trace fossils)

Facies and depositional environments

Facies analysis is the interpretation of strata in terms of
depositional environments (or depositional systems), commonly
based on a wide variety of observations
Facies associations constitute several facies that occur in
combination, and typically represent one depositional
environment (note that very few individual facies are diagnostic
for one specific setting!)
Facies successions (or facies sequences) are facies
associations with a characteristic vertical order
Walthers Law (1894) states that two different facies found
superimposed on one another and not separated by an
unconformity, must have been deposited adjacent to each other
at a given point in time