The processes within deep-sea sediment-routing systems are difficult to directly monitor. Therefore, we rely on other means to decipher the sequence and relative magnitude of the events related to erosion, sediment bypass, and deposition within channels that crosscut the seascape, and in particular, continental slopes. In this analysis, we examine the nature of slope channel fill in outcrop (Cretaceous Tres Pasos Formation, southern Chile) in order to evaluate the geological evidence of the full channel cycle, from inception to terminal infill with sediment, and we attempt to provide insight into the enigmatic deep-sea processes that are critical for a comprehensive understanding of Earth surface dynamics.
In the stratigraphic record, slope channel fills are typically represented by sandstone- or conglomerate-dominated deposits that define channelform sedimentary bodies tens of meters thick and hundreds of meters across. Despite the prevalence of coarse-grained sediment, key information is recorded in the fine-grained deposits locally preserved within the channelform bodies, as well as a breadth of scours or internal channelform stratal surfaces. These characteristics preserve the record of protracted sedimentary bypass and erosion. In many instances, the life of a slope channel is dominated by sedimentary bypass, and the stratigraphic record is biased by the products of shorter-lived channel filling and abandonment.
- Received 12 September 2013.
- Revision received 16 December 2013.
- Accepted 14 January 2014.
- © Geological Society of America
Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY license.