TABLE 1 Mechanisms of Basin Subsidence


  • Thinning of the crust due to stretching, erosion, or magmatic withdrawal.
  • Cooling of the lower crust and upper mantle.
  • Sedimentary and volcanic loading of the crust and lithosphere.
  • Tectonic loading of the crust and lithosphere.
  • Subcrustal loading caused by underthrusting of the lithosphere.
  • Dynamic flow of asthenosphere penetrated by descending lithosphere.
  • Densification of the crust due to high-pressure phase transformations.

identified 26 basin types associated with seven subsidence processes and five plate-boundary environments (see Figure 1). The authors emphasize that such detail is required by the range of tectonic processes and note S. J. Gould's admonition that ''classifications are theories about the basis of natural order, not dull catalogues compiled only to avoid chaos" (Gould, 1989).

Basin Modeling

The goal of basin modeling is to integrate the understanding of orogenic and subsidence processes to make predictions of paleotectonic reconstructions, basin evolution, and the distribution of potential resources such as aquifers and hydrocarbons. With sufficient data, such models should be feasible (e.g., Lawrence et al., 1990; Fouquet et al., 1990). The architecture of sedimentary basins is controlled by the rates and nature of sediment inflow and erosional and tectonic processes. Developing predictive models will require integrative studies to couple the history of erosion, mountain building, paleoclimatology, and paleo-oceanography to details of sediment accumulation and facies distribution. Groups of researchers have worked on portions of this problem, yet interactions to develop deeper understanding have been limited. Future work will require cross-disciplinary teams of paleogeographers, paleoclimatologists, stratigraphic modelers, paleontologists, geochemists, geophysicists, physical oceanographers, sedimentologists, and field geologists.

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