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Upstream and Downstream Controls on Sediment Routing and Deposition in a Complete “Source-to-Sink” System from a Simple Computer Model


Filling of sedimentary basins involves the complex interplay of external and intrinsic controls, which operate over very different spatial and temporal scales. To truly comprehend the filling of sedimentary basins, and to understand the variability of the stratigraphy and distribution of the lithologic properties in basins, one must take a complete approach in investigating sediment source area, transport dynamics, transient storage, and ultimate preservation. This type of study allows for sediment budget closure and prediction of the distribution of lithologic properties. Here, we present a computer simulation study of complete, “source-to-sink,” sediment routing systems from mountain ranges to sedimentary basins. With a series of numerical experiments, the study quantifies the spatial and temporal effects of external and intrinsic controls on sediment erosion, transport, and deposition in four different sediment-routing scenarios defined by a combination of systems with large or small rivers flowing to wide or narrow continental shelves. These experiments inform predictions of stratigraphic preservation, architectural style, and lithologic variability across the entire source-to-sink sedimentary system. Examples of external controls studied include (1) tectonic uplift and (2) precipitation of the upstream source area, as well as (3) subsidence and (4) sea-level variations of the downstream sink.