Understanding the incomplete nature of the stratigraphic record is fundamental for interpreting stratigraphic sequences. Methods for quantifying stratigraphic completeness for one-dimensional stratigraphic columns, defined as the proportion of time intervals of some length that contain stratigraphy, are commonplace; however, quantitative assessments of completeness in higher dimensions are lacking. Here we present a metric for defining stratigraphic completeness of two-dimensional shoreline trajectories using topset-foreset rollover positions in dip-parallel sections and describe the preservation potential of a shoreline trajectory derived from the geometry of the delta surface profile and the kinematics of the geomorphic shoreline trajectory. Two end-member forward models are required to fully constrain the preservation potential of the shoreline dependent on whether or not a topset is eroded during base level fall. A laboratory fan-delta was constructed under nonsteady boundary conditions, and one-dimensional stratigraphic column and two-dimensional shoreline completeness curves were calculated. Results are consistent with the hypothesis derived from conservation of sediment mass that completeness over all timescales should increase given increasing dimensions of analysis. Stratigraphic trajectories and completeness curves determined from forward models using experimental geomorphic trajectories compare well to values from transects when subsampled to the equivalent stratigraphic resolution as observed in the actual preserved sequence. The concept of stratigraphic completeness applied to two-dimensional trajectory analysis and the end-member forward models presented here provide novel tools for a conceptual understanding of the nature of stratigraphic preservation at basin scales.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Mahon, R.C., Shaw, J.B., Barnhart, K.R., Hobley, D.E.J., McElroy, B. , Quantifying the stratigraphic completeness of delta shoreline trajectories: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, v. 120, doi:10.1002/2014JF003298.