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Along‐strike variability in shelf‐margin morphology and accretion pattern: An example from the northern margin of the South China SeaNormal access

Authors: H. Zhuo, Y. Wang, Z. Sun, Y. Wang, Q. Xu, P. Hou, X. Wang, Z. Zhao, W. Zhou and S. Xu
Journal name: Basin Research
Issue: Vol 31, No 3, June 2019 pp. 431 - 460
DOI: 10.1111/bre.12329
Organisations: Wiley
Language: English
Info: Article, PDF ( 7.33Mb )

Interplays among diachronous tectonism, uneven sediment supply, and local marine hydraulic processes make the northern margin of the South China Sea (SCS) an ideal location to investigate the complexity of along‐strike variability in shelf margins. This study examines shelf‐margin morphology, stratigraphy, and sedimentation from the northern SCS using multichannel seismic reflection profiles complemented with the data from commercial and ocean drilling sites. Analysis of seismic reflection profiles reveals three categories of shelf‐margin cross‐sectional profiles, the con-cave‐up, linear, and sigmoidal, according to which five margin sectors were recog-nized. Results show that these margin segments differ in relief, shelf‐edge trajectory, submarine canyon development, and long‐term accretion pattern. The westernmost margin sector, or the Yinggehai (YGH)‐western Qiongdongnan (QDN) margin, has appeared to be supply dominated since its commencement at ca. 10.5 Ma, which is characterized by well‐developed prograding clinoforms, low‐angle shelf‐edge trajec-tories, and an absence of canyons. Presence of concave‐up profiles is also suggestive of high sediment influx. In contrast, the eastern QDN margin was primarily regulated by local subsidence and faulting, leading to a stationary shelf‐edge migrating pattern and linear upper‐slope morphology. Densely distributed slope‐confined gullies indi-cate the margin’s disequilibrium and erosive nature. Further east, the Pearl River Mouth (PRM) margin formed much earlier (ca. 30 Ma) and experienced a more com-plicated accretion history, including three phases which were dominated by sequen-tial marginal faulting (before ca. 30 Ma), basement structure (ca. 30–23 Ma), and sediment supply (ca. 23 Ma to the present). The overall sigmoidal morphology and truncated stratigraphy of this margin probably resulted from the sculpting of local marine processes, especially ocean currents and internal waves. The exception of the central PRM margin where concave‐up profiles develop is mainly related to canyon erosion. Overall, this study highlights the vital role of local forcing factors in control-ling along‐margin variations and determining the final fates of different margin seg-ments. A comparison between the northern SCS and other well‐established examples reveals that concave‐upward shelf‐margin shapes, which are usually associated with high sediment supply, little influence from hydraulic regimes, or sometimes, high degree of canyon development, may be an indicator of good reservoir potential be-yond the shelf edge.

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