Marine Geophysical Research

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 415–428 | Cite as

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

  • Qi-Liang Sun
  • Shi-Guo Wu
  • Thomas Lüdmann
  • Bin Wang
  • Tao-Tao Yang
Original Research Paper


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.


Deep-water sedimentation Cyclic deposition Mass transport deposits Turbidite Sea level change Qiongdongnan Basin 



We thank China National Petroleum Company for permission to release the seismic data. This work was supported by the CAS Knowledge Innovation Program (KZCX2-YW-229), the National Basic Research Program of China (2009CB219406) and the National Scientific foundation of China (Grant No. 40930845). Dominic A. Armitage, Sun Zhen and an anonymous reviewer are thanked for their constructive and thorough reviews and suggestions which significantly improved the manuscript. We are also grateful to the kindly Editor-in-Chief, Amy E. Draut, for her substantial corrections to the English language and helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qi-Liang Sun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shi-Guo Wu
    • 1
  • Thomas Lüdmann
    • 3
  • Bin Wang
    • 4
  • Tao-Tao Yang
    • 4
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Marine Geology and Environment, Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesQingdaoChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Centre of Marine and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  4. 4.PetroChina Hangzhou Institute of GeologyHangzhouChina

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