Modern Sand-Rich and Mud-Rich Siliciclastic Aprons: Alternative Base-of-Slope Turbidite Systems to Submarine Fans

  • C. Hans Nelson
  • Andrés Maldonado
  • John H. BarberJr.
  • Belén Alonso
Part of the Frontiers in Sedimentary Geology book series (SEDIMENTARY)


Base-of-slope aprons that lack significant channel development and are fed by multiple sediment sources (i.e., numerous slope failures or debris chutes) represent an alternative facies organization to submarine fans that possess channels and are fed by canyon point sources of allochthonous sediment. Two styles of base-of-slope apron deposition are evident: (1) sand-rich aprons with rhythmic, gradational sand and gravel sheets that evolve to basin-plain turbidites as exemplified by Crater Lake aprons, and (2) mud-rich aprons composed of chaotic sediment flow lobes without gradation as exemplified by Ebro margin aprons.

Sand-rich aprons typically occur at the base of steep slopes or fault scarps in volcanically or tectonically active basins (i.e., trench-floor, rift, back-arc, transform basins) in sand-rich areas that lack large point sources. These single or coalesced cones usually are small (several kilometers in length), have their apices at the base-of-slope, decrease gradually in thickness toward the basin center, and lie conformably on the basin floor without erosional truncation of underlying beds. Proximal aprons exhibit numerous discontinuous high-amplitude and wedging seismic reflections together with high sand-to-shale ratios from thick unsorted sand and gravel beds. The proximal aprons evolve gradually to basin-plain environments that exhibit low amplitude, parallel and continuous seismic reflections, and low sand-to-shale ratios from thin and fine-grained turbidite sand layers. The sedimentary processes also evolve gradually from slides on the slope, to a variety of sediment-gravity sheet flows over the aprons, and then to turbidity-current sheet flows over the basin-plain areas.

Mud-rich aprons may occur at the base of any mud-rich basin slope with multiple retrograde failures, but are most common on mud-draped passive margins associated with prograding river deltas. Compared with sand-rich aprons, mud-rich aprons are usually (1) larger (tens of kilometers in length), (2) more lenticular, (3) more elongate and irregular in thickness and shape, (4) thinner at the apex, which may be detached from the slope base, and (5) lacking in gradual gradation of facies at distal margins. They exhibit erosional truncation with underlying beds, possess transparent or chaotic seismic facies throughout, contain chaotic mixtures of deformed mud and sand beds everywhere, and thus appear to be deposited mainly by debris-flow processes without distal gradation to turbidity currents.

Aprons may occur coevally with or evolve into other channelized turbidite systems. Consequently, definition of modern apron facies should help the interpretation of complex associations of aprons and fans, and assist the search for ancient sand-rich aprons that sometimes possess excellent reservoir beds.


Debris Flow Crater Lake Seismic Facies Caldera Wall Turbidite System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References Cited

  1. Alonso, B., 1986: El sistema del abanico profundo del Ebro; Tesis Doctoral; Univ. Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, 384 p.Google Scholar
  2. Alonso, B., Kastens, K.A., Maldonado, A., Malinverno, A., Nelson, C.H., O’Connell, S., Palanques, A., and Ryan, W.B.F., 1985: Morphology of the Ebro Fan Valleys from SeaMARC and Sea BEAM profiles; Geo-Marine Lett., v. 5, p. 141–145.Google Scholar
  3. Bacon, C.R., 1983: Eruptive history of Mount Mazama and Crater Lake Caldera, Cascade Range, U.S.A.; J. Volcano]. Geotherm. Res., v. 18, p. 57–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baltzer, F., and Masson, D., 1988: Sedimentary processes in the deep parts of the northern Lake Tanganyika (Abstract); Int. Assoc. Sedimentologists International Workshop, Lacustrine facies models in rift systems and related natural resources; Inst. Jaime Aimera, C.S.I.C., Univ. Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, p. 3.Google Scholar
  5. Barber, J.H., Jr., and Nelson, C.H., 1990: Sedimentary history of Crater Lake caldera, in E.T. Drake, G.L. Larson, J. Dymond, and R. Collier, eds., Crater Lake: An ecosystem study; Am. Assoc. Advancement of Science Pacific Section, p. 29–39.Google Scholar
  6. Bellaiche, G., Coutellier, V., and Droz, L., 1986: Seismic evidence of widespread mass transport deposits in the Rhône deep-sea fan: Their role in the fan construction; Mar. Geol., v. 71, p. 327–340.Google Scholar
  7. Bering Sea EEZ-Scan Scientific Staff, in press: Atlas of the Exclusive Economic Zone, Bering Sea; U.S. Geol. Surv. Miscellaneous Investigations Series 1–2053, scale 1:500,000, in press.Google Scholar
  8. Biju-Duval, B., Letouzey, J., and Montadert, L., 1978: Structure and evolution of the Mediterranean basins, in K.J. Hsü, L. Montadert et al., eds., Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project, v. 42, part I, p. 951–984.Google Scholar
  9. Bouma, A.H., Normark, W.R., and Barnes, N.E., eds., 1985: Submarine fans and related turbidite systems; Springer-Verlag, New York, 351 p.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowman, M.B.J., Richards, M.T., and Burraclough, R.: Seismic facies of the Jurassic Brae-Miller and Paleocene Andrews submarine fans, Viking Guben, North Sea, in press.Google Scholar
  11. Byrne, J.V., 1962: Bathymetry of Crater Lake, Oregon; Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, The Ore Bin, v. 24, p. 161–164.Google Scholar
  12. Carey, S., and Sigurdsson, H., 1984: A model of volcanogenic sedimentation in marginal basins, in B.P. Kokelaar and M.F. Howells, eds., Marginal basin geology; Blackwell, Oxford, p. 37–56.Google Scholar
  13. Carlson, P.R., and Karl, H.A., 1984/1985: Mass movement of fine-grained sediment to the basin floor, Bering Sea, Alaska; Geo-Marine Lett., v. 4, p. 221–225.Google Scholar
  14. Carlson, P.R., and Karl, H.A., 1988: Development of large submarine canyons in the Bering Sea, indicated by morphologic, seismic, and sedimentologic characteristics; Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., v. 100, p. 1594–1615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Choe, M.Y., and Chough, S.K., 1988: The Hunghae formation, southeast Korea: Miocene debris aprons in back-arc intraslope basin; Sedimentology, v. 35, p. 239–255.Google Scholar
  16. Cita, M.B., and Ricci Lucchi, F., eds., 1984: Seismicity and sedimentation; Mar. Geol., v. 55, nos. 1 and 2, 161 p.Google Scholar
  17. Coleman, J.H., Prior, D.B., and Lindsay, J.F., 1983: Deltaic influences on shelf edge instability processes, in D.J. Stanley and G.T. Moore, eds., The shelf-break: Critical interface on continental margins; Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Spec. Publ. 33, p. 121–137.Google Scholar
  18. Cook, H.E., McDaniels, P.H., Mountjow, F.W., and Pray, L.C., 1972: Allochthonous carbonate debris flows at Devonian Bank (“reef”) margins, Alberta, Canada; Bull. Can. Petrol. Geol., v. 20, p. 439–497.Google Scholar
  19. Cook, H.E., Hine, A.C., and Mullins, H.T., 1983: Platform margin and deep water carbonates; Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Short Course 12.Google Scholar
  20. Damuth, J.E., Flood, R.D., Kowsmann, R.O., Belderson, R.H., and Gorin, M.A., 1988: Anatomy and growth pattern of Amazon deep-sea fan as revealed by long-range side-scan sonar (GLORIA) and high-resolution seismic studies; Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. Bull., v. 72, p. 885–911.Google Scholar
  21. Dingle, R.V., 1977: The anatomy of a large submarine slump on a sheared con-tinental margin (SE Africa); J. Geol. Soc. London, v. 134, p. 293–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Doyle, L.J., and Bourrouilh, R., eds., 1987: Megaturbidites; Geo-Marine Lett.,v. 7, p. 59–118.Google Scholar
  23. Droz, L., and Bellaiche, G., 1985: Rhône deep-sea fan: Morphostructure and growth pattern; Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. Bull., v. 69, p. 460–479.Google Scholar
  24. Eberli, G.P., 1987: Carbonate turbidite sequences deposited in rift-basins of the Jurassic Tethys ocean (southeast Alps, Switzerland); Sedimentology, v. 34, p. 363–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Embley, R.W., 1980: The role of mass transport in the distribution and character of deep-ocean sediments with special reference to the north Atlantic; Mar. Geol., v. 38, p. 23–50.Google Scholar
  26. Enos, P., 1977: Tamabra limestone of the Poza Rica trend, Cretaceous, Mexico, in H.E. Cook and P. Enos, eds., Deep-water carbonate environments; Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Spec. Publ. 25, p. 273–314.Google Scholar
  27. Enos, P., 1985: Cretaceous debris reservoirs, Poza Rica field, Veracruz, Mexico, in P.O. Roehl and P.W. Choquette, eds., Carbonate petroleum reservoirs; Springer, Berlin, p. 455–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Farquharson, G.W., Hamer, R.D., and Ineson, J.R., 1984: Proximal volcaniclastic sedimentation in a Cretaceous back-arc basin, northern Antarctic Peninsula, in G.P. Kokelaar and M.F. Howells, eds., Marginal basin geology; Blackwell, Oxford, p. 219–229.Google Scholar
  29. Farrdn, M., and Maldonado, A., 1990: The Ebro continental shelf: quaternary seismic stratigraphy and growth patterns, in C.H. Nelson and A. Maldonado, eds., The Ebro continental margin, northwestern Mediterranean Sea: Mar. Geol., v. 95, in press.Google Scholar
  30. Field, M.E., and Gardner, J.V., 1990: Pliocene-Pleistocene growth of the Rio Ebro margin, NE Spain: A prograding slope model; Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., v. 102, p. 721–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fornari, D.J., Moore, J.G., and Calk, L., 1979: A large submarine sand-rubble flow on Kilauea volcano, Hawaii; J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res., v. 5, p. 239256.Google Scholar
  32. Hall, B.R., and Link, M.H., 1990: Reservoir description of the Webster Zone, a Miocene turbidite sandstone reservoir, Midway-Sunset Field, California, in J. Barwis, et al., eds., Sandstone reservoirs: Springer-Verlag, New York, p. 509–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hamilton, E.L., 1959, Thickness and consolidation of deep-sea sediments: Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., v. 70, p. 1399–1424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jiang, Xi-Jiang, 1988: Seismic stratigraphie analysis and petroleum exploration of Paleogene lacustrine sandstone bodies, offshore Bohai basin, China, in A.W. Bally, ed., Atlas of seismic stratigraphy; Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. Studies Geol. 27, v. 2, p. 22–33.Google Scholar
  35. Johns, D.R., Mutti, E., Rosell, J., and Seguret, M., 1981: Origin of a thick. redeposited carbonate bed in Eocene turbidites of the Hecho Group, south-central Pyrenees, Spain; Geology, v. 9, p. 161–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kastens, K., and Shor, A.N., 1985: Depositional processes of a meandering channel on Mississippi fan; Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. Bull., v. 69, p. 190–202.Google Scholar
  37. Leitch, E.C., 1984: Marginal basins of the SW Pacific and the preservation and recognition of their ancient analogues: A review, in B.P. Kokelaar and M.F. Howells, eds., Marginal basin geology; Blackwell, Oxford, p. 97–108.Google Scholar
  38. Link, MH., and Stitt, L.T., 1987: Middle to late Miocene Mint Canyon and Castaic deposition in southern Ridge Basin, California, in M.H. Link, ed., Sedimentary facies, tectonic relations, and hydrocarbon significance in Ridge Basin, California; Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Pacific Section, p. 21–33.Google Scholar
  39. Maldonado, A., Got, H., Monaco, A., O’Connell, S., and Mirabile, S., 1985: Valencia Fan (northwestern Mediterranean): Distal deposition fan variant; Mar. Geol., v. 62, p. 295–319.Google Scholar
  40. Manley, P.L., and Flood, R.D., 1988: Cyclic sediment deposition within Amazon deep-sea fan; Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. Bull., v. 72, p. 912–925.Google Scholar
  41. Moore, J.G., Clague, D.A., Holcomb, R.T., Lipman, P.W., Normark, W.R., and Torresan, M.E., 1989: Prodigious submarine slides on the Hawaiian Ridge; J. Geophys. Res., v$194, no$11312, p. 17, 465–17, 484.Google Scholar
  42. Mullins, H.T., and Cook, H.E., 1986: Carbonate aprons models: Alternatives to the submarine fan model for paleoenvironmental analysis and hydrocarbon exploration; Sediment. Geol., v. 48, p. 37–79.Google Scholar
  43. Mutti, E., 1979: Turbidites et cones sous-marins profonds, in P. Homewood, ed., Sedimentation detritique (fluviatile, littorale et marine); Univ. Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland, p. 353–419.Google Scholar
  44. Mutti, E., and Ricci Lucchi, E, 1972: Turbidites of the northern Appenines; introduction to facies analysis; Int. Geol. Rev., v. 20, p. 125–166 ( English translation by T.H. Nilsen ).Google Scholar
  45. Nardin, T.R., 1983: Late Quaternary depositional systems and sea level change, Santa Monica and San Pedro basins, California Continental Borderland; Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. Bull., v. 67, p. 1104–1124.Google Scholar
  46. Nardin, T.R., Edwards, B.D., and Gorsline, D.S., 1979a: Santa Cruz basin, California borderland: Dominance of slope processes in basin sedimentation, in Doyle, L.J., and Pilkey, O.H., eds., The geology of continental slopes; Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Spec. Publ. 27, p. 209–221.Google Scholar
  47. Nardin, T.R., Hein, F.J., Gorsline, D.S., and Edwards, B.R., 1979b: A review of mass movement processes, sediment and acoustic characteristics, and contrasts in slope and base-of-slope systems versus canyon-fan-basin floor systems, in Doyle, L.J., and Pilkey, O.H., eds., The geology of continental slopes. Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Spec. Publ. 27, p. 61–73.Google Scholar
  48. Nelson, C.H., 1967: Sediments of Crater Lake, Oregon; Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., v. 79, p. 833–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nelson, C.H., 1983: Modern submarine fans and debris aprons: An up-date of the first half century, in S.J. Boardman, ed., Revolution in the earth sciences. Advances in the past half-century; Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, p. 148–166.Google Scholar
  50. Nelson, C.H., 1990: Estimated post-Messinian sediment supply and sedimentation rates on the Ebro continental margin, Spain, in C.H. Nelson and A. Maldonado, eds., The Ebro continental margin, northwestern Mediterranean Sea. Mar. Geol., v. 95, in press.Google Scholar
  51. Nelson, C.H., and Kulm, L.D., 1973: Submarine fans and channels, in G.V. Middleton and A.W. Bouma, eds., Turbidites and deep water sedimentation; Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Pacific Section Short Course, Anaheim, CA, p. 39–78.Google Scholar
  52. Nelson, C.H., and Maldonado, A., 1988: Factors controlling depositional patterns of Ebro turbidite systems, Mediterranean Sea; Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol. Bull., v. 72, p. 698–716.Google Scholar
  53. Nelson, C.H., and Nilsen, T.H., 1984: Modern and ancient deep sea-fan sedimentation; Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Short Course 14, 404 p.Google Scholar
  54. Nelson, C.H., Maldonado, A., Coumes, F., Got, H., and Monaco, A., 1983/ 1984: The Ebro deep sea-fan system; Geo-Marine Lett., v. 3, p. 125–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nelson, C.H., Bacon, C.R., and Robinson, S.W., 1986a: The caldera floor sedimentary history of Crater Lake, Oregon (Abstract); 12th Int. Assoc. Sedimentologists Congr., Canberra, Australia, p. 226.Google Scholar
  56. Nelson, C.H., Meyer, A.W., Thor, D., and Larsen, M.L., 1986b: Crater Lake, Oregon: A restricted basin with base-of-slope aprons of nonchannelized turbi-dites; Geology, v. 14, p. 238–241.Google Scholar
  57. Nelson, C.H., Carlson, P.R., and Bacon, C.R., 1988: The Mount Mazama climactic eruption (- 6900 yr B.P.) and resulting convulsive sedimentation on the Crater Lake caldera floor, continent, and ocean basin, in H.E. Cliftoned., Sedimentologic consequences of convulsive geologic events: Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Paper 229, p. 37–57Google Scholar
  58. Newhall, C.G., Paull, C.K., Bradbury, J.P., Higuera-Gundy, A., Poppe, L.J., Self, S., Bonar Sharpless, N., and Ziagos, J., 1987: Recent geologic history of Lake Atitlân, a caldera lake in western Guatemala; J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res., v. 33, p. 81–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Normark, W.R., and Gutmacher, C.E., 1988: Sur submarine slide, Monterey fan, central California; Sedimentology, v. 35, p. 629–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Normark, W.R., and Hess, G.R., 1980: Quaternary growth patterns of California submarine fans, in M.E. Field, A.H. Bouma, I.P. Colburn, R.G. Douglas, and J.C. Ingle, eds., Quaternary depositional environments of the Pacific coast; Pacific Coast Paleogeography Symposium 4, Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Pacific Section, Los Angeles, CA, p. 201–210.Google Scholar
  61. Normark, W.R., and Piper, D.J.W., 1972: Sediments and growth pattern of Navy deep-sea fan, San Clemente basin, California Borderland; J. Geol., v. 80, p. 198–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. O’Connell, S., Ryan, W.B.F., and Normark, W.R., 1987: Modes of development of slope canyons and their relation to channel and levee features on the Ebro sediment apron, offshore northeastern Spain; Mar. Petrol. Geol., v. 4, p. 308319.Google Scholar
  63. Otis, R.M., Smith, R.B., and Wold, R.J., 1977: Geophysical survey of Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming; J. Geophys. Res., v. 82, p. 3705–3717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Poppe, L.J., Paull, C.K., Newhall, C.G., Bradbury, J.P., and Ziagos, J. 1985: A geophysical and geological study of Laguna de Ayarza, a Guatemalan caldera lake; J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res., v. 25, p. 125–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Reading, H.G., 1986: African Rift tectonics and sedimentation, an introduction, in L.E. Frostick, R.W. Renaut, I. Reid, and J.J. Tiercelin, eds., Sedimentation in the African Rifts; Geol. Soc. London Spec. Publ. 25, p. 3–7.Google Scholar
  66. Ricci Lucchi, F., and Valmori, E., 1980: Basin-wide turbidites in a Miocene, over-supplied deep-sea plain: A geometrical analysis; Sedimentology, v. 27, p. 241–270.Google Scholar
  67. Rosendahl, B.R., Reynolds, D.J., Lorber, P.M., Burgess, C.F., McGill, J., Scott, D., Lambiase, J.J., and Derksen, Si., 1986: Structural expressions of rifting: Lessons from Lake Tanganyika, Africa, in L.E. Frostick, R.W. Renaut, I. Reid, and J.J. Tiercelin, eds., Sedimentation in the African Rifts; Geol. Soc. London Spec. Publ. 25, p. 29–43.Google Scholar
  68. Schlager, W., and Chermak, A., 1979: Sediment facies of platform-basin transition, Tongue of the Ocean, Bahamas, in L.J. Doyle and O.H. Pilkey, eds., Geology of continental slopes; Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Spec. Publ. 27, p. 193–208.Google Scholar
  69. Scott, D.L., 1988, Modern processes in a continental rift lake: An interpretation of 28 kHz seismic profiles from Lake Malawi, East Africa: M.S. Thesis, Duke University, Durham, NC, 82 p.Google Scholar
  70. Tiercelin, J.J., 1988: Hydrothermal activity, metalliferous sediments and hydrocarbons examples of North Tanganyika and Kivu troughs, East African Rift (Abstract); Int. Assoc. Sedimentologists International Workshop, Lacustrine facies models in rift systems and related natural resources, Inst. Jaime Aimera, C.S.I.C., Univ. Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, p. 17.Google Scholar
  71. Thornburg, T.M., and Kulm, L.D., 1987: Sedimentation in the Chile trench: Depositional morphologies, lithofacies, and stratigraphy; Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., v. 98, p. 33–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Walker, J.R., and Massingill, J.V., 1970: Slump features on the Mississippi Fan, northeastern Gulf of Mexico; Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., v. 81, p. 3101–3108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Weimer, P., 1987: Seismic stratigraphy of three areas of lower slope failure, Torok formation, Northern Alaska; in I.L. Tailleur and P. Weimer, eds., Alaskan North Slope Geology: Soc. Econ. Paleont. Mineral. Pacific Section, v. 50, p. 481–496.Google Scholar
  74. Weimer, P., 1989: Sequence stratigraphy of the Mississippi Fan (Plio-Pleistocene), Gulf of Mexico; Geo-Marine Lett., v. 9, p. 185–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Williams, H., 1956: Crater Lake National Park and vicinity, Oreg.; U.S. Geol.Surv. topographic map, scale 1: 62, 500.Google Scholar
  76. Zhang, Zhensheng: The structural evolution and depositional systems of faulted depressions in the North China Basin, in press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Hans Nelson
  • Andrés Maldonado
  • John H. BarberJr.
  • Belén Alonso

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations