, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 415-428
Date: 26 Mar 2011

Geophysical evidence for cyclic sediment deposition on the southern slope of Qiongdongnan Basin, South China Sea

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Gravity flow deposits form a significant component of the stratigraphic record in ancient and modern deep-water basins worldwide. Analyses of high-resolution 3D seismic reflection data in a predominantly slope setting, the southern slope of Qiongdongnan Basin, South China Sea, reveal the extensive presence of gravity flow depositional elements in the Late Pliocene−Quaternary strata. Three key elements were observed: (1) mass transport deposits (MTDs) including slumps and debris flows, (2) turbidity current deposits including distributary channel complexes, leveed channel complexes and avulsion channel complexes, and (3) deep-water drapes (highstand condensed sections). Each depositional element displays a unique seismic expression and internal structures in seismic profiles and attribute maps. Based on seismic characteristics, the studied succession is subdivided into six units in which three depositional cycles are identified. Each cycle exhibits MTDs (slump or debris) at the base, overlain by turbidities or a deep-water drape. The genesis of these cycles is mainly controlled by frequent sea-level fluctuations and high sedimentation rates in the Late Pliocene–Quaternary. Moreover, tectonics, differential subsidence, and paleo-seafloor morphology may have also contributed to their formation processes. The present study is aimed to a better understanding of deep-water depositional systems, and to a successful hydrocarbon exploration and engineering-risk assessment.