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Shelf Edge Deltas _offshore Trinidad

Shelf Edge Deltas _offshore Trinidad

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Shelf-edge deltas along structurally complex margins: A case study from eastern offshore Trinidad

Lorena Moscardelli, Lesli J. Wood, and Dallas B. Dunlap

AUTHORS Lorena Moscardelli  Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; lorena.moscardelli@beg.utexas.edu Lorena Moscardelli is a research associate and lecturer at the Bureau of Economic Geology and the co-principal investigator of the Quantitative Clastics Laboratory Industrial Associates program. Her interests include seismic geomorphology of deep-water deposits with special emphasis on mass-transport complexes, regional hydrocarbon prospectivity, and application of novel seismic visualization techniques to tackle a variety of geologic problems. She holds a B.S. degree in geology from the Central University of Venezuela, and a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Texas at Austin. Lesli J. Wood  Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; lesli.wood@beg.utexas.edu Lesli J. Wood is a senior research scientist and lecturer at the Bureau of Economic Geology and the principal investigator of the Quantitative Clastics Laboratory Industrial Associates program. Her interests include seismic geomorphology, clastic depositional systems, and Martian sedimentology. She holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in geology from the Arkansas Tech University and the University of Arkansas, and a Ph.D. in earth resources from Colorado State University. Dallas B. Dunlap  Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; dallas.dunlap@beg.utexas.edu Dallas B. Dunlap received his B.S. degree in geology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1996. That year, he joined the Bureau of Economic Geology’s (BEG) international projects group as a research scientist associate focused on reservoir characterization studies in Austria, Mexico, and Venezuela. In 2006, he moved to BEG’s Quantitative Clastics Laboratory studying various marine depositional systems.

ABSTRACT A 15,000-km2 (5792-mi2) three-dimensional seismic data survey that covers the shelf-slope transition of the eastern offshore Trinidad continental margin reveals the geometry and depositional history of the last maximum glacial lowstand shelfmargin succession. Despite the lack of well information at these shallow depths, the quality and continuity of the seismic data allow us to pursue a detailed seismic stratigraphic interpretation of the last lowstand margin succession. The basin-fill stratal architecture of the studied stratigraphic interval shows a great deal of lateral and vertical variability along the continental margin during the Pleistocene to Holocene. Three geomorphological elements controlled the character of the accommodation within the basin and were crucial in transporting, delivering, and storing sediment supply from shelf to slope areas: (1) the Columbus sedimentary pathway on the shelf, (2) bypass zones in the shelf-break region, and (3) deepwater depocenters. The location and geometry of these geomorphological elements within the basin are clearly controlled by underlying structures, transpressional to the north and gravity driven to the south. Migration of the paleo-Orinoco delta system across the shelf was also a key factor in defining the stratigraphic geometries that are observed within the shelf break. Development of shelf-edge versus outer-shelf deltaic systems on the continental margin was controlled by the nature of sediment supply at specific times, as well as by the availability of accommodation, although, to a lesser extent, to relative sea level fluctuations. The interpretation also showed

Copyright ©2012. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved. Manuscript received March 30, 2011; provisional acceptance November 28, 2011; revised manuscript received January 9, 2012; final acceptance January 24, 2012. DOI:10.1306/01241211046

AAPG Bulletin, v. 96, no. 8 (August 2012), pp. 1483 – 1522


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The member companies of the Quantitative Clastics Laboratory Industrial Associates program provided funding for this research. We thank the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries for Trinidad and Tobago for the ongoing partnership in the study of the geology of Trinidad and Tobago. We also thank ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Shell, BP, BHP Billiton, and their partner companies for the generous donation of seismic data, as well as the Landmark University Grant software, for the ongoing support. We thank the Jackson School of Geosciences for providing partial funding to cover publication costs and the director of the Bureau of Economic Geology for providing similar funding. We also thank the Computing and Media departments of the Bureau of Economic Geology for providing excellent technical support. We thank AAPG editor Stephen E. Laubach as well as Mourad M. Bedir and additional anonymous reviewers for providing valuable input that improved the technical content of this manuscript. The publication was authorized by the director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin. The AAPG Editor thanks the following reviewers for their work on this paper: Mourad M. Bedir and three anonymous reviewers.

that, for time-equivalent units, parts of the shelf-edge region could develop as an erosional margin (sediment bypass zones), whereas other parts of the shelf edge could behave as an accretionary margin (sediment accumulation). The sequencestratigraphic interpretation that was attempted in this work also demonstrated that the characteristics of systems tracts can abruptly change along strike in the shelf-edge region for timeequivalent units. These changes can be misleading if a genetic interpretation is pursued only on the basis of the definition of system tracts in the shelf-edge region without the consideration of a complete regional framework.

INTRODUCTION Numerous scientists have used two-dimensional (2-D) seismic sections along various modern and ancient paleocontinental margins to discuss the dynamics of sediment transport along these settings from shelf edge to slope (Johannessen and Steel, 2005). However, 2-D seismic sections can be sparse, and abrupt changes on margin architecture along strike can pose a challenge when trying to select representative seismic sections for an entire margin. Likewise, a multitude of regional sedimentation models are based on outcrop analyses that provide a valuable insight into large-scale stratigraphic relationships (Posamentier and Vail, 1988; Posamentier and Allen, 1999; Johannessen and Steel, 2005). Outcrop studies also provide information that is crucial to understand the small-scale architecture of basin-fill deposits but escaping the observation that such analysis is mostly 2-D is not possible. True sediment distribution analysis, process analysis, and source-sink analysis of even limited (10 km2 [4 mi2]) areas are best attempted with a threedimensional (3-D) data set. Such models will allow one to return to 2-D studies emboldened with a new perspective and will enable placement of those observations in a much more meaningful context. Three-dimensional data, such as 3-D seismic volumes, integrated with well-log data provide the type of dense understanding of the relationships between structure and strata that may lead to an ability to decipher the interplay of tectonic, eustatic, and sediment-supply signatures within individual clinoform packages across the basin. Most depositional models that try to explain sediment transport from shelf to deep-water locations assume that these processes occur along a bidimensional plane that is perpendicular to the shelf-edge trajectory (Karner and Driscoll, 1997). Despite these practical and commonly necessary assumptions, subsurface and modern environmental studies highlight the


Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins

importance of alongshore and current-controlled processes for sediment transport into deep-water environments (Martinsen and Helland-Hansen, 1995; Boyd et al., 2008; Carvajal et al., 2009; Elliott et al., 2010; Zhu et al., 2010; Dickinson et al., 2011; Georgiopoulou et al., 2011; Hubble et al., 2011). A study based on outcrop and subsurface data covering the Maastrichtian depositional cycles from the Lewis-Fox Hills shelf margin in Wyoming concludes that waves and tides can contribute sand to canyon heads via alongshore drift (Carvajal et al., 2009). Dickinson et al. (2011) described the morphology of modern canyons on the northern South China Sea margin and concluded that canyon formation in this region was related to the action of the Kuroshio current and not to shelf processes. The lack of evidence for canyon linkages to the shelf in the South China Sea margin suggests that strong bottom currents interacting with the midslope region have triggered the formation and lateral migration of canyons since the Miocene (Zhu et al., 2010; Dickinson et al., 2011). The study of modern outer-shelf environments, such as the one conducted by Boyd et al. (2008) in Fraser Island (southeastern Australia), also highlights the importance of alongshore tidal transport systems to deliver sediments into deep-water locations during highstand conditions. Slope stability analysis from the eastern Australian margin indicate that the slope should be stable; however, bottom-water currents managed to erode the slope triggering pervasive sediment mass failures across the margin (Hubble et al., 2011). The Rockall Bank mass flow located in eastern offshore Ireland was generated by the action of bottom water currents that eroded the lower part of the slope and triggered the 24,000 km2 (9266 mi2) mass wasting event (Elliott et al., 2010; Georgiopoulou et al., 2011). This realization of the importance of alongshore, tidal and bottom water currents emphasizes the idea that sediment dynamics along continental margins is clearly a 3-D problem. The scarcity of models rigorously addressing the issue of sediment movement along strike seems to favor the concept of along-dip sediment-transport mechanisms functioning as almost exclusive processes in most continental margins. Many models also rely heavily on relative sea level fluctuations

as the primary driver to explain how and when sediments are delivered into deep-water settings. The general assumption is that, if the shoreline is able to regress entirely onto the shelf edge, sand could easily be delivered beyond the outer shelf and, therefore, the shelf margin should prograde basinward (Posamentier and Vail, 1988; Posamentier and Allen, 1999; Johannessen and Steel, 2005). This concept might be adequate for some parts of the shelf margin but, even under passive margin conditions, local and semiregional structuring can generate shelf proximal sediment sinks (e.g., growth sediment traps) that prevent sediments from being transferred into deep-water locations during lowstand conditions. Many numerical models also encounter difficulties in addressing the issue of sediment transfer along strike, in part because of the difficulty of dealing with the three-dimensionality of the problem (Jordan and Flemings, 1991; Steckler et al., 1993; Ross et al., 1994; Karner and Driscoll, 1997; Wolinsky and Pratson, 2007). Therefore, most numerical models assume that stratigraphic stacking patterns are solely the result of depositional and sediment-transport processes operating within the modeling section (2-D approach; Karner and Driscoll, 1997). Karner and Driscoll (1997, p. 443) recognized these limitations by indicating that “while diffusion models provide a physical basis for the generation of clinoforms, the resulting model predictions appear to do little more than track the transgressive and regressive movements of the shoreline.” The introduction of 3-D interactions by allowing alongmargin sediment diffusion to redistribute the sediment brought across the margin by a combination of diffusion (e.g., 3-D progradation and switching of depositional lobes along the margin) and advection (e.g., gravity flows across the margin) is a step in the right direction to improve the predictive capabilities of these models (Karner and Driscoll, 1997). The conceptualization of models that attempt to explain the mechanisms of sediment transfer from shelf edge to slope poses a big challenge to researchers. The complexity of the problem caused in part by the multitude of variables involved is clear. Such complexity requires a delicate balance of simplification and detailed data, the latter of which is commonly lacking in some studies.
Moscardelli et al. 1485

Existing models seem to rely too heavily on the influence of relative sea level changes as the main driver of sediment transport to deep-water locations, underestimating the impact of underlying structural configuration, as well as that of alongshore, current-controlled, and tidal transport systems (Ryan et al., 2009). Structures can control accommodation by influencing the morphology of the shelf edge so that bypass zones and areas of sediment retention are commonly related to the presence or absence of certain geometric arrangements that are defined by fault architecture. To truly understand these systems and pinpoint sinks, sources, and transfer pathways for sediments, we must look at the 3-D nature of these margins and their deposits. The study area, located in eastern offshore Trinidad, offers a unique look at both the temporal and spatial changes of a margin undergoing regions of extension and transpression within a 100-km (62-mi) span along the shelf break. Such an examination would allow for comparison and contrast of these structural settings (extension vs. transpression). This article concentrates on the study of the paleo-Orinoco shelf-edge delta that developed during the last maximum glacial lowstand in eastern offshore Trinidad. The main objective of this work is to pursue a detailed geomorphological study of the last glacial lowstand shelf-margin system (100-km [62-mi] length) along eastern offshore Trinidad. We seek to address the following questions: (1) How does the geomorphology and architecture of shelf-margin and shelf-edge deltas vary laterally along the structurally complex margin of eastern offshore Trinidad?; (2) How does the nature of clinoform development and interaction with different structural domains along this study area relate to sediment escape into the downslope region?; and (3) What are the seismic-based criteria that can be used to characterize the different types of sediment-transport mechanisms operating in the outer-shelf to upper slope region?

STUDY AREA The area of study is located in the southeastern margin of the tectonically active Caribbean plate
1486 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins

boundary zone (CPBZ) in eastern offshore Trinidad (Figure 1). This study uses a 15,000-km2 (5792-mi2) 3-D seismic survey that extends from the eastern part of the Columbus Basin (modern shelf) to the deep-water exploratory blocks of eastern offshore Trinidad (modern slope) to examine the architecture and character of the last maximum glacial lowstand shelf-margin succession (Figure 1). The Trinidad and northeastern Venezuela area is characterized by active tectonism driven by the transpressive character of the CPBZ, which passes through the north edge of the study area, in which both compressional and extensional forces operate (Escalona and Mann, 2011). High sediment accumulation rates in the area, associated with supply from the Orinoco delta system and accommodation enhanced by tectonics, have dominated the character of the stratigraphic succession in the study area since the Miocene (Wood, 2000). The Orinoco River is the second largest river in South America; most of the sediment transported by this system is derived from the Neogene-uplifted terrains of the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia, the Merida Andes of Venezuela, and the Caribbean Mountain Range, whereas a smaller percentage comes from the Guayana shield to the south (Diaz de Gamero, 1996). A series of studies have documented the existence of a paleo-Orinoco delta that migrated from the Maracaibo Basin to its presentday position throughout the Neogene (Diaz de Gamero, 1996; Mann et al., 2006; Escalona and Mann, 2011). This system shifted its outlet consistently eastward in response to barriers emplaced by the uplift of successively more and more eastward located mountain ranges along the northern South American margin (Rod, 1981; Diaz de Gamero, 1996; Mann et al., 2006; Escalona and Mann, 2011). The paleo-Orinoco River shifted to a position similar to its present-day course during the late Miocene, whereas the active lobe of the paleo-Orinoco delta migrated through the Columbus Basin during the late Pliocene, reaching the shelf edge during the Pliocene-Pleistocene (paleoOrinoco shelf-edge deltas) (Diaz de Gamero, 1996; Wood, 2000). Significant framework mapping has been done by a variety of authors in the slope and deep-water

(2006). as well as the relationship between delta architecture. Moscardelli et al. 2006. The area of three-dimensional (3-D) seismic data is outlined.Figure 1. but these efforts concentrated on the study of deep-water. Lines X and Y represent the location of two regional seismic lines (line drawings) that are shown in Figure 4. fault character. and slope morphology.. The light-gray–shadowed area in the map highlights the deep-water blocks where gravity-induced deposits were studied and documented by Brami et al. 2009). 1487 . Moscardelli and Wood. Map showing the area of study located in northeastern South America along the Caribbean plate boundary zone. gravity-induced deposits that occurred below the shelf break (Brami et al. 2008. Maher (2007) also examined the influence that shelf-edge structures had in defining the bypass zones of deep-water sands in the southern growth- fault domain (Figure 2B). Moscardelli et al. Contours represent bathymetry in meters. This later work tackles some of the basic questions related to lateral variations of shelf-edge deltas along the southern growthfault domain of our study area (Figure 2B) (Maher.. areas of the basin. we present results of a more detailed interpretation of shelf-edge architecture Moscardelli et al. In this article. 2007). (2000). Moscardelli and Wood (2008). Wood and Mize-Spansky. The dark-gray–shadowed area highlights the 3-D seismic data that have been incorporated into this work and where fluvial and deltaic sequences were briefly documented by Maher (2007) and Alvarez (2008). and Wood and Mize-Spansky (2009). 2000.

The red and yellow interpreted horizons on the seismic lines correspond to the P10-SB1 and P4-SB2 sequence boundaries. respectively. (B) Composite northeast-southwest–oriented 3-D seismic line along dip within the southern structural domain. showing the shallow structural deformation associated with the transpressive forces related to the South America–Caribbean plate boundary zone. and the data coverage associated with the 3-D seismic megamerge is shown in the inset map. Notice the sea-floor displacement associated with one of the counterregional faults near the shelf break. The 3-D seismic lines also show the outer shelf to upper slope transition. showing the character of the growth and counterregional fault province. The map displayed within the inset map corresponds to the P10-SB1 horizon.1488 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins Figure 2. (A) Composite northeast-southwest–oriented three-dimensional (3-D) seismic line along dip within the northern structural domain. . TWTT = two-way traveltime. Notice the relative high associated with the Darien Ridge and the paleocanyon incision located to the west.

these are P10-SB1. however. lw = lowstand wedge. The seismic character and distribution of main sequence-stratigraphic units significantly vary from south to north. TST = transgressive systems tract. and the sea floor. HST = highstand systems tract. these intervals are time equivalent to units to the south that fit the traditional sequence-stratigraphic definition for key surfaces and system tracts. From base to top. P4-SB2. mfs = maximum flooding surface. these variations are thought to be associated with underlying structural controls and changes in sedimentation rates across the margin.Moscardelli et al. bff = basin-floor fan. Three main horizons were mapped across the study area to reconstruct the stratigraphic architecture of the basin. LST = lowstand systems tract. . (B) Line drawing from 3-D seismic line above. TWTT = two-way traveltime. showing seismic facies (SF) distribution and sequence-stratigraphic interpretation. (A) Composite northwest-southeast–oriented 3-D seismic line along strike. showing the shelf-edge region in eastern offshore Trinidad (see the inset map within Figure 2 for location). Terms in quotation marks indicate that these units and surfaces do not present the typical seismic characteristics defined by the sequence-stratigraphic approach. 1489 Figure 3.

where transpressional deformation was dominant at the time of deposition (Figures 2A. but no available logs or core penetrating within the interval of interest exist because of technical reasons and because this shallow section has no commercial interest for the oil industry. Bin spacing of the timemigrated merged 3-D volume is 25 × 12. 1999) and integration of the observations from previous workers in the study area (Figures 3. Seismic data were interpreted using Linux workstations and Landmark subsurface interpretation software (Seisworks and Geoprobe). 1977. 11). and only the first 8 s of data are included in the interpretation because of the poor quality of the seismic image at greater depths (Figure 4). In addition. and the vertical sample rate is 4 ms. and the upper part of the slope in the eastern offshore Trinidad area (Figures 1. Moscardelli and Wood.. this work seeks to characterize the association between the shelf-margin dynamic during the last maximum glacial lowstand in the eastern offshore Trinidad continental margin and its impact on defining the location of downslope sediment fairways and depocenters.75 m. Extraction of a variety of seismic attributes was also performed to produce seismic attribute maps and visualizations (Figure 9). We also integrate our interpretation of the time-equivalent units to the north (Darien Ridge area). Posamentier and Allen. 10. 2008). Six separate 3-D seismic volumes were available and merged into a single continuous volume covering 15. 2003. Sequence-stratigraphic units were defined using seismic stratigraphic criteria (reflection terminations and geometries) (Vail et al. 2). Structure maps on key stratigraphic horizons and interval isopach maps of the stratigraphic units were generated to define the gross architecture of the shelf-margin region and to assess its sedimentary-fill history (Figures 8. 2006.. 2000. which have a 4-ms vertical sample rate and 1490 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins a total data record of 18 s (Figure 4). Moscardelli et al.in the southern growth-fault domain (TrinidadVenezuela border. Conventional seismic interpretation methods. a 100-km (62-mi) extent of the shelf-margin region. interpolation. and the average frequency content of the full-stack seismic data was 30 to 35 Hz.. and merging of horizons to generate final versions of key stratigraphic surfaces (Figures 7. . Wood. Several exploratory wells have been drilled in the study area. Because of confidentiality issues and data-release constraints for publication. were used to generate the key stratigraphic surfaces that define the gross architecture of the continental-margin stratigraphic succession of eastern offshore Trinidad (Figure 8). 8). DATA SETS AND METHODS The primary data set that was used to conduct this study of the eastern offshore Trinidad continental margin during the last maximum glacial lowstand period was 3-D seismic reflection data. whereas the regional 2-D seismic lines were used to provide an overview of the main structural elements in the study area (Figure 4). The available 3-D seismic coverage was large enough to cover most of the shelf. Figure 2B). Sydow et al. 2008. Maher. 5). We also had access to 325 km (202 mi) of 2-D seismic reflection data (GULFREX) collected by Gulf Oil Company in 1974. 2000. Imaging depths vary between individual surveys but range from a minimum of 1 s two-way traveltime (TWTT) in the westernmost part of the study area (shelf) to a maximum of 5 s TWTT of coverage in the deepwater blocks (Figure 2). Figure 1 shows the extension of the 3-D seismic data set within the study area and how the overlapping of the seismic surveys provides a continuous lateral coverage of the shelfedge region.000 km2 (5792 mi2). Alvarez.. Seismic interpretation techniques included manual and automatic picking of key amplitude horizons. the 2-D seismic lines from the vintage GULFREX data are presented in the form of line drawings. The 3-D seismic volumes were used to map detailed architecture of the last glacial lowstand shelf margin (Figures 3.5 m (82 × 41 ft). 2007. 3). including seismic facies descriptions and mapping (Figures 5–7). 5) (Brami et al. Approximate time-depth conversion at shallow depth is 1 ms equivalent to 0. Threedimensional seismic volumes were processed to zero phase.

(B) Line drawing of a regional southwest-northeast 2-D seismic line located within the southern structural domain that shows the character of the growth and counterregional faults located in the southern parts of the basin. The light-gray–shadowed section in both line drawings represents the stratigraphic interval under study (the base of this interval is equivalent to the P10-SB1 sequence boundary). The line shows the main structural elements associated with the transpressive forces that affected the north margin of the basin. Notice the structural high associated with the eastern continuation of the Darien Ridge and how it influences the geometry of the shallow stratigraphic units (light-gray shadow). TWTT = two-way traveltime.Moscardelli et al. (A) Line drawing of a regional southwest-northeast two-dimensional (2-D) seismic line located within the northern structural domain. 1491 Figure 4. . The outlines labeled as Line 1 and Line 2 represent the overlap between the composite three-dimensional seismic lines shown in Figure 2 and the line drawings of the regional 2-D seismic lines shown in this figure.

TS = transgressive surface. showing active growth faults within the southern structural domain (SSD) (accretionary shelf margin). LCC = levee-channel complex. MTC = mass-transport complex. 1492 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins .Figure 5. mfs = maximum flooding surface. Three-dimensional seismic lines taken from four different locations along the eastern offshore Trinidad continental margin and line drawings showing seismic facies (SF) distribution and sequence-stratigraphic interpretation (see index map for location). lw = lowstand wedge. Notice the variation along strike within the different seismic transects in terms of stratigraphic architectures and seismic facies distribution for each of the time-equivalent systems tracts. bff = basin-floor fan. HST = highstand systems tract. sf = slope fans. (D) Transect D taken across the southern bypass zone and showing higher density of faults and steeper slopes within the SSD (erosional shelf margin). (B) Transect B located to the south of the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway. (C) Transect C showing active growth and counterregional faults that form growth-fault sediment traps in the SSD (accretionary shelf margin). TWTT = two-way traveltime. LST = lowstand systems tract. (A) Transect A along the main axis of the paleocanyon located in the northern structural domain (erosional shelf margin).

Moscardelli et al. Seismic facies (SF) descriptions and depositional environment interpretation. 1493 Figure 6. .

Key stratigraphic surfaces mapped across the study area.. This surface was interpreted by Maher (2007) as the last glacial maximum lowstand surface in the shelf-break area in the southern structural domain (SSD) (Brami et al. 2007) and to the top D horizon in the shelf (Alvarez.Figure 7.. Maher.. 2006). 2007) and as the base of a regional levee-channel complex in the deep-water blocks (Brami et al. 1494 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins . Water depths range from 10 m (33 ft) in the shelf region to 1932 m (6339 ft) in the deep-water blocks. 2000. Lines X and Y indicate the location of the twodimensional seismic line drawings shown in Figure 4. TWTT = two-way traveltime. 2000.. Moscardelli et al. The P10SB1 surface presents a 1540-m (5052-ft) vertical relief that ranges from a minimum of 120 m (394 ft) in the shelf to a maximum of 1660 m (5447 ft) in the slope. (C) The P10-SB1 sequence boundary was mapped as the base of mass-transport complex MTC_1 in the deepwater blocks (Moscardelli et al. This surface is equivalent to the TQ85 surface in the shelfbreak region (SSD) (Maher. (A) Sea-floor surface: the slope values of the sea floor increase from proximal to distal (shelf to slope direction) and increase from south to north as the South America–Caribbean plate boundary zone is approached. 2006). (B) The P4-SB2 sequence boundary presents a 1400-m (4593-ft) vertical relief that ranges from a minimum of 100 m (328 ft) on the shelf break area to a maximum of 1500 m (4921 ft) on the slope area. 2008).

1495 . and it was the main feeder of sediments for the slope area within the northern structural domain (NSD). Moscardelli et al.Figure 8. (B) Sketch highlighting the main structural and geomorphological elements in the study area. Bypass zones in the shelf-edge region are defined to the north (NSD) by a paleocanyon and by the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway and to the south (southern structural domain [SSD]) by the southern termination of a growth-fault sediment trap. The depocenters are northeast-southwest–elongated minibasins that are flanked to the north and south by mud-volcano ridges that are associated with deeprooted transpressive faults. The Columbus sedimentary pathway is the main sedimentary conduit within the shelf region. (A) Isopach map (in two-way traveltime [TWTT]) between the P10-SB1 surface and the sea floor. The shelf region is dominated by northwest-southeast–oriented growth faults and northeast-southwest–oriented folds associated with transpressive forces. Structural elements within the shelf-edge region include northwest-southeast–oriented growth and counterregional faults and semigraben structures located to the north that are related to the eastern termination of the Darien Ridge.

red. The red colors correspond to areas of dissimilarities within the seismic volume that expose the presence of small-scale faulting within the topset part of the clinoform (faults are constrained to the clinoform package) and collapses of the upper parts of the clinoform foreset near the rollover area. These features have been interpreted as mouth-bar deposits associated with a paleoshelf-edge delta lobe. There are also moderate to high amplitudes distributed as an elongated body in the foreset part of the clinoform that have been interpreted as gravity-induced flows. Notice the location of the paleocanyon axis and paleoshelf break. 1496 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins . but a semblance extraction was generated using the clinoform surface as a guide horizon. (D) Same view as in A. but the figure also shows a surface that represents a clinoform that was mapped within the paleocanyon area (see seismic section for reference). Notice the high amplitudes (green. Notice that the clinoform areal extension is limited by the lateral boundaries of the paleocanyon. (A) The image shows a perspective of sequence boundary P10-SB1 from the southeast (looking updip).Figure 9. Visualization of three-dimensional seismic subvolume within the paleocanyon area in the northern structural domain. (B) Same view as in A. and yellow) in the topset part of the clinoform. Cross section aa′ highlights the interval of interest and surfaces that are shown in the visualizations. The boundaries of the paleocanyon coincide with a counterregional fault that lies against the Darien Ridge (eastern boundary) and a growth fault located on the shelf break (western boundary). (C) A root-mean-square (RMS) amplitude extraction using the clinoform surface as a guide horizon was generated and superimposed on top of the original clinoform surface.

(A) Isopach map (in time) of lowstand systems tract 2 (LST2). (C) Transect D located to the south end of the growth-fault sediment trap and showing an increase in the steepness of the slope angles (associated with a more intense faulting system) that favored the bypass of sediments to downslope locations. 1497 . mfs = maximum flooding surface. RMS = root mean square. Moscardelli et al. (B) Transect C showing a cross-sectional view of the growth-fault sediment trap. equivalent to the last maximum glacial lowstand paleo-Orinoco shelf-edge delta (the map is constrained to the southern structural domain). TST = transgressive systems tract. HST = highstand systems tract.Figure 10. as well as the location of sediment bypass zones. sf = slope fans. TWTT = two-way traveltime. lw = lowstand wedge. The map shows the influence that growth and counterregional faults located in the shelf-edge region have in defining sediment traps within the outer-shelf and upper slope region.

where accommodation was greater. The map shows what seems to be mouth-bar deposits near the shelf break and a series of gullies that were transporting sediments downslope. (B) Isopach map (in two-way traveltime [TWTT]) of lowstand systems tract 2. 1498 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins .Figure 11. (A) Structural map of the P4-SB2 sequence boundary (base LST2 unit) in the northern structural domain (NSD). equivalent to last maximum glacial lowstand paleo-Orinoco shelf-edge delta (NSD). Notice that the Darien Ridge (horst) still influences the morphology of the shelf-break region for this interval. (D) Line drawing of transect A across the paleocanyon axis. Thicker intervals are concentrated in the paleocanyon area. The isopach map also shows a sinuous channel associated with a levee-channel complex that connects with the paleocanyon area. (C) Root-mean-square amplitude extraction map taken 20 ms above the P4-SB2 surface.

creating sea-floor features in the NSD up to 200 m (656 ft) high. 4A. 8). 2011). 2006). 2006.. This line shows the main structural elements associated with the NSD: (1) northwestsoutheast–oriented regional growth faults and counterregional faults to the west of the Darien Ridge associated with big rollover structures. 2011). Garciacaro et al. Wood. and the southern structural domain (SSD). 8. Sullivan et al. 2004.3–2. This geography promoted growth along the southwest-facing counterregional fault (Figure 4A).. The Darien Ridge also defines the present-day plate boundary zone between the South American and the Caribbean plates. which are Pliocene-Pleistocene in age (Heppard et al. where gravitational tectonics controls the formation and arrangement of growth and counterregional faults along the southern part of the shelf margin (Figures 4B. The high-angle thrusts associated with plate boundary transpression cut through Cretaceous and early Pliocene rocks generating the steep walls (12– 24°) of the Darien Ridge (Figure 4A) (Garciacaro et al. 4) (Wood. 2011). The age of these northern structures relative to those developing in the more southern areas of the basin allows for longer and larger growth and the generation of higher structural relief. (2011) as an area dominated by northeast-striking thrust faults and associated folds.43 mi] wide) of uplift that defines the northern boundary of the Neogene Columbus Basin (Figures 1. (3) to the northeastern part of the line drawing (slope region). 2000. The presence of the uplifted ridge confined sedimentation from the shelf to the slope to areas immediately southwest of the uplift (Figures 4A. 2000. where transpressional tectonics associated with the CPBZ are the dominant structural deformational driver (Figures 4A. This ridge exhibits a significant sea-floor relief in some areas (20–140 m [66–459 ft]).5 km (0. folded. Proper characterization of geometric arrangements associated with individual structural elements in each of these structural domains is crucial to understanding the remarkable architectural variations that are observed within the shelf-edge stratigraphic succession along the eastern continental margin of Trinidad.. 9) (Moscardelli et al. (2) northeastsouthwest–oriented. and it represents the eastern offshore continuation of Trinidad’s Central Range (Wood. Sydow et al. 1499 . 2003. 2011). 2A. Two distinctive structural domains were defined in this work: the northern structural domain (NSD). 8). contributing to the formation of a Pliocene-Pleistocene incised paleocanyon to the southwest of the main structure (Figures 4A... 2000. Moscardelli et al. Each structural domain is composed of distinctive fault patterns that have the capacity to control stratigraphic variations along strike and influence the final geometry of deposits along the shelf break... Garciacaro et al. 8).8 mi) of thick. Northern Structural Domain The Darien Ridge bounds the northern edge of what we consider to be the NSD. high-angle thrusts arranged in a flowerlike structure that forms the core of the structural high associated with the Darien Ridge (Garciacaro et al. Figure 4A is a line drawing of one of the northeast-southwest regional 2-D seismic lines that were acquired over the Darien Ridge. 1998.REGIONAL STRUCTURAL SETTING Extensive 2-D and 3-D seismic reflection data acquired over the eastern offshore Trinidad region enable the detailed description of the main structural elements that are present in the study area. Moreover.. 2000).. revealing the complexities associated with a variety of structural styles that coexist along this margin (Figures 2. 2003). 3. Thrusts associated with the Darien Ridge are the oldest fault family in the Columbus Basin (middle Miocene). although transpressive forces were still active during the Pliocene-Pleistocene. This ridge is a northeast-southwest narrow zone (20 km [12. 7C. The Darien Ridge is composed of 0.. the underlying structural configuration along the margin also influences the location of sediment bypass zones through which sediments are funneled downslope.5 to 4. 8). a series of highangle normal faults associated with the flanks of northeast-southwest–oriented regional mud-volcano Moscardelli et al. and thrusted Cretaceous and lower Tertiary carbonates and clastic rocks that were deformed during the Miocene (Wood. The NSD was described by Wood (2000) and Garciacaro et al. Boettcher et al.

Within the NSD.. 2008). 5C.. however. These structures are equivalent to the growth faults that can be observed to the west of the Darien Ridge on the NSD (Figure 8). Mud-volcano ridges located in the slope area define structural and bathymetric highs that flank deep-water depocenters. Similar to the NSD. 2004. The presence of landward-dipping counterregional faults in some areas of the shelf break favored sequestration of sediments in the upper slope region (Figures 4B. In the deep-water parts of the basin. these growthfault structures are Pliocene-Pleistocene in age. where sediments that are bypassed through the shelf break accumulate (Figures 4A. 2008). sediments were able to bypass directly into deep-water depocenters (Figures 5D. In this part of the Columbus Basin. which might be responsible for hydrocarbon escape (Figure 8). 9). 10). 5D). as well as the geometry of the associated rollover anticlines. subsidence in the hanging wall of growth faults is the dominant accommodation process and dense faulting in the shelf-break region significantly obscures margin trajectories (Sydow et al.. At the same time. in areas of the shelf break where only basinward-dipping growth faults were present. and a series of secondary faults dissecting the crest of the anticlines can be observed (Figures 4. and (4) northeastsouthwest high-angle transpressive faults that are genetically linked to the core of the regional mudvolcano ridges (middle Miocene in age) (Moscardelli and Wood. these anticlines have thus far proven to have limited liquid hydrocarbons associated with them. Ridges associated with the mudvolcano trains decrease in height and steepness . instead they have sea-floor expression in the form of mud volcanoes. These mudvolcano trains and buried anticlines define the lateral boundaries of minibasins that act as key pathways and depocenters for sediments delivered from the upper slope region (Figure 8) (Moscardelli and Wood. Moscardelli and Wood. In addition. 8) whose crestal trends can be traced southwestward into the modern shelf where they form significant hydrocarbon trap trends (Figure 8). Transpressive faults within the deep-water parts of the basin are commonly associated with regional mud-volcano trains and buried anticlines (Figures 4B. In the deep-water parts of the basin. This paleocanyon system started to develop during the Pliocene-Pleistocene and continued to funnel sediments downslope during the last maximum glacial lowstand period (Figures 4A. the intensity of the transpressional deformation and associated structures is more noticeable than in the SSD. The rollover anticlines in the SSD present a higher degree of compartmentalization than do equivalent structures to the north. 2003). a series of high-angle transpressive faults can be interpreted from the 2-D seismic lines.ridges can also be observed (Sullivan et al. and they were an important factor in constraining the position of the shelf break through time. 8). Southern Structural Domain The main structural elements along the southern continental margin of eastern offshore Trinidad are a series of Pliocene-Pleistocene northwest-southeast– oriented regional growth faults and counterregional 1500 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins faults and associated rollover anticlines (Figure 4B). The proximity to the CPBZ favored the formation of a higher structural relief in this region (NSD). The geometric arrangement of the different structural elements that are present in the NSD has a noticeable influence on the architecture of the shelf-margin stratigraphic succession. 9). 9. 8. the intensity and structural relief associated with these transpressive structures are not as abrupt as those in the NSD (Figure 4). define oversteepened areas that ultimately influence the location of the shelf break. landward-dipping counterregional fault against the western flank of the Darien Ridge facilitated accentuation of a structural low that favored the incision of a paleocanyon (Figures 4A. The presence and evolution of the regional basinward-dipping growth faults along the eastern offshore Trinidad continental margin. 8. 10). 2006). Moscardelli et al. the positioning of a regional. The geometric arrangements that developed within the NSD between transpressive structures such as the Darien Ridge and growth faults located in the shelf break region promoted the formation of canyons that did not develop within the time equivalent section to the south (SSD) (Figures 4. 2008).

2007. and the sea floor (Figure 7) (Table 1). the slope of the sea floor decreases from the NSD near the plate boundary zone to the SSD where growth faults are the dominant structural features. Numerous workers have mapped the different parts of these horizons during the last 10 yr (see Table 1) (Sullivan et al.. P4. however. as transpressive deformation forces associated with the CPBZ diminish southward (Figure 4B). although most of the area of interest within the shelf-break region was well represented in the data and final map (Figure 7B).000-km2 (5792-mi2) area.. Water depths in the study area range from a minimum of 10 m (33 ft) in the shelf region to the west to maximum depths of 1932 m (6339 ft) in the deep-water region to the east (Figure 7A). The P10 horizon (Figure 7C) was originally mapped as the base of a regional mass-transport deposit (MTD. Maher. Sea-Floor Surface In general. active basinward-dipping growth faults and associated counterregional faults break through the modern sea floor. DESCRIPTION OF KEY STRATIGRAPHIC SURFACES IN THE EASTERN OFFSHORE AREA OF TRINIDAD Two regional horizons and the sea floor were mapped and correlated across the shelf and into the slope and deep-marine basin (Figures 2. Poor seismic imaging in some areas restricted interpretation of the P4 horizon to the western (shelf) and to the southern parts of the deep-water blocks. the P10 horizon correlated to the top D surface as interpreted by Alvarez (2008) but additional interpretation was necessary to merge these surfaces (Figure 7C). to the south. 2006. 2008). from oldest to youngest. 2007). P10. (2006). small channels can be identified in some areas (Alvarez. Moscardelli and Wood (2008) *The P4 and P10 horizons were remapped as necessary and merged to generate the continuous surfaces that are shown in this work. Moscardelli et al.. LCC = levee-channel complex. 7B). Moscardelli and Wood. 3. Moscardelli and Wood (2008) Shelf Break (South) Sullivan et al. 2000. 2008). D) (Maher. see figure 5 of Moscardelli et al. (2006). In the southern part of the modern shelf break within the SSD. Slope values associated with the sea floor in the shelf region tend to be low over most of the area and have increasing dips toward the east near the shelf break. MTC_1) that was identified in the deep-water blocks of the study area and correlated updip to the northern parts of the shelf margin (NSD) (Brami et al. Maher (2007) extended the mapping of the P10 horizon in the southern part of the shelf margin on the basis of seismic correlations. 2008. (2006). Moscardelli and Wood. east-west–trending Moscardelli et al. (2006) Moscardelli et al. Previous Mapping of Key Surface in the Study Area Horizon* Sea floor P4 (base LCC)* P10 (base MTC)* Shelf Sullivan et al. generating vertical displacements that can reach up to 48 m (157 ft. (2004) Maher (2007) Maher (2007) Slope Sullivan et al. 7). MTC = mass-transport complex. final mapping of these surfaces required a complete revision of previous seismic interpretations over a 15. 2006. Moscardelli et al. (2004) Moscardelli et al. 2004. Moscardelli et al. A low-sinuosity.. The low-amplitude values associated with the sea-floor reflector in the shelf region do not allow for good recognition of geomorphological elements. 2006).. 1501 . 2008. In this article. 5. (2004) Poor seismic imaging Alvarez (2008) Shelf Break (North) Sullivan et al.Table 1. Figure 5C. we standardize the nomenclature according to Moscardelli and Wood (2008) so that the merged key regional surfaces are. In the shelfal part of the basin (west). (2004) Moscardelli et al. The P4 horizon represents the base of a regional levee-channel complex (LCC) that overlies MTC_1 (Figures 2. (2000). however. Wood and Mize-Spansky (2009) Brami et al. Alvarez.

several straight channels originate on the western side of the counterregional fault in the slope region and incise the P4 horizon (Maher.. and to the north. In the shelf region. 2006). 2007). forming a growth-fault sediment trap near the shelf break (Figure 10. the architecture of the P4 horizon is dominated by an older paleocanyon (Figures 7B. Wood and MizeSpansky. One of the most notable features of the P4 horizon in the SSD is the presence of a northwest-southeast–elongated trough immediately basinward of the shelf break (Figures 5C. However. 2004. Several high-sinuosity channels also originate on the western side of this counterregional fault in the slope area and connect to a well-developed LCC downdip (Figure 11) (Brami et al. Sullivan et al. P10 Horizon Figure 7C depicts a structural map of the P10 horizon. Wood and Mize-Spansky. as interpreted by Sydow et al. This trough is formed by the coalescence of a basinward-dipping listric growth fault and a counterregional fault. 2004). Mud volcanoes are important components of the sea-floor geomorphology in the slope area because these features have the capacity to act as bathymetric barriers that can control sediment transport and distribution in the deep-water region (Sullivan et al. Truncations of older stratigraphic successions and onlapping against the P4 horizon in the NSD are common and easily visible features (Figure 5A). the P4 horizon is represented by a highamplitude continuous reflector that separates the low-amplitude chaotic facies associated with an underlying MTD (MTC_1) from the overlying high-amplitude continuous seismic reflectors associated with the LCC (Figure 7B. Figure 7A). 2009). In the northern part of the shelf edge (NSD). Flanks of individual mud volcanoes can reach maximum slope angles of 12° and total heights of 76 m (249 ft) (Sullivan et al. 2007). Basinward of the shelf-edge region. D). 2004. 10). (2003) and Maher (2007) (Figure 7B). and it correlated with the last glacial maximum lowstand surface.. Basinward. 11).. (2004) reported the presence of 161 mud volcanoes in the deep-water blocks of eastern offshore Trinidad that have a clear sea-floor expression. The P4 horizon is recognizable in the southern part of the shelf-edge region (SSD) because it truncates an underlying 1502 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins progradational package (Figure 5C. In the NSD. 2006. Moscardelli et al. which is evident from examining the isopach map shown in Figure 11B. the slope of the sea floor progressively increases from west to east (shelf break to upper slope transition. This surface was also mapped to the south (SSD) in the shelfmargin region. 2009). Also.incised channel located to the east of a major counterregional fault within the SSD that appears to be transferring sediments from the west of the counterregional fault into deeper slope regions exists (Figure 7B) (Maher.. also see figure 3 of Moscardelli et al. Maher. the P4 horizon also shows vertical displacement in a landward-dipping counterregional fault that dies out near the Darien Ridge (Figure 11A). Wood and Mize-Spansky (2009) also showed the most recent channel activity affecting the near–sea-floor stratigraphic interval within the deep-water blocks of the study area (see their figure 2). 2009). The P4 horizon presents a 1400-m (4593-ft) vertical relief that ranges from a minimum of 100 m (328 ft) in the shelf-break area to the west to a maximum of 1500 m (4921 ft) in the deep-water blocks to the east (Figure 7B). 2007). P4 Horizon The P4 horizon defines the base of a well-imaged LCC and the top of an MTD (MTC_1) in the deep-water blocks of the study area. the P10 horizon has variable reflection-amplitude strength and continuity . Moscardelli et al.. contrary to what was reported by Maher (2007) in the SSD. the overlying unit onlaps against this surface (Figure 5A. Wood and Mize-Spansky. this counterregional fault did not generate a growth-fault sediment trap.. 2000. B). Localized increases in slope angles also occur around individual mud volcanoes and mud-volcano ridges in the deep-water blocks (Figure 7A) (Sullivan et al.. 2006.

the P10 horizon is represented by a high-amplitude reflector that shows steep erosional edges that can reach 250 m (820 ft) in relief and elongated linear scours that are greater than 30 m (>98 ft) deep. 2007). 2006). becoming steeper on the outershelf and upper slope transition and in the paleocanyon area to the north. but it widens downslope. the P10 horizon is an extensive and irregular erosional surface that. 1998). Additional erosional morphologies that can be observed in the deep-water blocks and that are associated with the P10 horizon include deep erosional escarpments and basal megascours (Moscardelli et al. on the outer shelf (near the Darien Ridge). D). and it represented one of the main sedimentary bypass zones in the shelf-margin region (Figure 8). The outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway is located in the area that defines the boundary between the SSD and the NSD. 9). high-amplitude. Maher (2007) reported that the P10 horizon is heavily cut by faults and shows post-formation subsidence near the paleoshelf edge in the southeastern part of the study area (SSD. We adopt the classic definition of a clinoform as a depositional shape characterized in dip section by a gently sloping topset. The Columbus sedimentary pathway reached the shelf margin. The slope of the P10 horizon varies across the depositional dip. reaching more than 10 km (>6. but it rarely exceeds the 200-m (656-ft) mark (Figures 5..2 mi) on its lower end. The height of SF1 clinoforms is always greater than 10 m (>33 ft). in Moscardelli et al. Maher. 7C). 2008). and it is bounded along both margins by normal faults forming a structural depression that is greater than 500 m (1640 ft) deep (Figure 9A) (Moscardelli et al. 8) (Alvarez. This seismic facies is composed of steep clinoform packages in the outer-shelf region near the shelf break (Figures 5. In the northern part of the shelf margin near the Darien Ridge (NSD). In the deep-water blocks. This paleocanyon is approximately 2 km (∼1 mi) wide on its updip end. One of the most important geomorphological elements associated with this surface in the shelf region is a northeast-southwest–oriented depression that we refer to as the “Columbus sedimentary pathway” (Figures 7C. and in the deep-water blocks to the east. 8. however. and a gently sloping bottomset (Rich. 6). 2006).. Figure 5). the seismic reflector equivalent to the P10 horizon becomes slightly discontinuous because of seismic data distortion caused by the presence of shallow gas (Figure 2. 8). a steeply sloping foreset. In these regions. Pirmez et al. and relatively continuous reflectors. Onlap relationships against the P10 horizon have also been documented to the north on the outer shelf near the Darien Ridge (NSD) and to the south in the Southeast Galeota (SEG) area (SSD. the P10 horizon is equivalent to the base of a regional MTD (MTC_1) (Figure 7C. The P10 horizon presents a 1540-m (5052-ft) vertical relief that ranges from a minimum of 120 m (394 ft) on the shelf to a maximum of 1660 m (5446 ft) in the deep-water blocks (Figure 7C).. DESCRIPTION OF SEISMIC FACIES AND DEPOSITIONAL ENVIRONMENTS Seismic Facies 1: Steep Clinoform Package Intervals containing seismic facies 1 (SF1) are constrained mainly to areas in the SSD. the P10 horizon is on top of a seismic package that generally presents concordant reflections. Moscardelli et al. correlates to the base of a southeastnorthwest–trending paleocanyon that is deeply incised (Figures 7C. 2006). 1503 . suggesting that the P10 horizon is erosive near the shelf break (Figure 5D). Figure 5C. The topset parts of the clinoforms are characterized by low-angle. On the shelf. although some truncations can be seen in the Coralita area to the southeast.and is systematically offset by a series of northwestsoutheast– oriented growth faults (Figure 7C) (Alvarez. In some areas near the shelf break to the southeast (SSD). where the throw on down-tothe-east extensional faults allowed for the formation of an outlet in the shelf break that connected to the upper slope region (Figures 3. 6). 2008). This sedimentary conduit was structurally confined by northeast-southwest– trending anticlines associated with the Darien Ridge to the north and to the Southeast Galeota (SEG) high to the south (Figures 7C.. 1951.

Notice the location of shelf break with respect to growth and counterregional faults. high amplitudes in the upper slope highlight the location of the growth-fault sediment trap and how sediments progressively manage to bypass as they approached the southern termination of the counterregional fault. (C) A blown-up view of the southern part of the amplitude extraction map showing the character of the distributary channel system and mouth-bar deposits. (B) Root-mean-square amplitude extraction map generated in a 40-ms window below the P4-SB2 surface and targeting the upper part of highstand systems tract 1 (HST1). Moreover. (A) Structural map of the P4-SB2 sequence boundary (base lowstand systems tract 2 [LST2] unit) in the southern structural domain. TWTT = twoway traveltime.Figure 12. (E) Transect C across the growth-fault sediment trap region. (D) Transect D across the bypass zone. where downslope mass movement (slumps) seems to be the dominant process. Notice the clear channelized features in the southern part of the outer shelf and the change in seismic character in the upper slope region. The geometry of the channelized features suggests tidal influence in this part of the delta. 1504 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins .

(2003) as horizontal topset facies and steep sigmoid oblique facies (foreset part of the clinoforms). seismic reflection discontinuities that can be observed within the foreset part of the SF1 clinoforms on the same time-equivalent amplitude-extraction map (Figure 12C) show that sediment gravity flows (debris flows and turbidites) were of common occurrence in the deltafront part of the system. are continuous enough to allow mapping of individual clinoform geometries (Figures 5. This seismic facies is equivalent to what was described by Sydow et al. Depositional Environment Seismic Facies 1: Outer-Shelf Delta Seismic facies 1 has been interpreted as an outershelf delta associated with the northeasterly migration of the paleo-Orinoco delta system. and the overall rollover trajectory of individual clinoforms suggests a mostly progradational to slightly aggradational trajectory (Figure 5B. 9). some areas exist where downlapping of the clinoforms against the underlying unit is better exposed (Figure 5B). affecting sediment transfer toward deep-water locations. The clinoform foresets are steep (5°) and present medium. easily reaching greater than 1000 m (>3281 ft) in some areas (Figures 5. The topset incisions within the clinoforms reveal the presence of channels in the shoreface part of the delta (Figures 6. and continuous reflectors that tend to wedge or onlap against a basal surface (Figure 5A). and height (<200 m [<656 ft]) of the SF1 clinoforms (Figure 5) indicate that these units reached a position that was in close proximity to the shelf break. presenting highor low-amplitude reflectors that. the topsets are incised by channellike features within which seismic reflections present a low-amplitude and discontinuous character (Figure 6). In fact. Seismic Facies 2: Sigmoid Clinoform Package This seismic facies is composed of clinoform geometries that occur both in the NSD and SSD (Figure 5). The overall rollover trajectory of these clinoforms tends Moscardelli et al. The low sinuosities observed within the channels and their geometric arrangements with respect to the shelf break suggest that the deltaic system was influenced by the action of tides. Note that. The bottomset parts of the clinoforms within SF2 are commonly low-amplitude discontinuous reflectors that tend to present a chaotic character (Figure 5A. architecture. The bottomset parts of the clinoforms are difficult to map in this package because a seismic multiple significantly perturbs the imaging of this particular interval (Figure 5C). However. 6). The foreset component of the clinoforms is steeper than that of the topset. and its seismic expression can be variable. C). The progradational pattern. Clinoform heights for seismic facies 2 (SF2) always exceed the 200-m (656-ft) mark. hence our interpretation of an outer-shelf deltaic configuration for this seismic facies.some areas. despite these similarities. obtained in the SSD near the paleoshelf break. Moreover. show that channelized features within the SF1 clinoform topsets have a straight geometry (low sinuosity) and their trajectories tend to be perpendicular to the shelf break (Figure 12).to low-amplitude seismic reflections that sometimes mask their geometry (Figure 5B). high-amplitude. The rollover points of individual clinoforms within this unit do not seem to surpass the outer-shelf region. the geomorphological characteristics observed in the SF1 topset channels are remarkably similar to the present-day morphology that is observed within the southern. but the foresets never completely merged with the continental slope. This is a relevant point because it indicates that tidal processes can also operate in deltaic systems that are in close proximity to the shelf break and therefore might be an important factor. whereas the modern Orinoco delta is an inner-shelf deltaic system. 1505 . Amplitude-extraction maps. The topset parts of the clinoforms within SF2 generally present lowangle. the SF1 clinoforms were part of an outer-shelf delta that was in close proximity to the shelf break. The areal coverage provided by 3-D seismic data allowed us to observe the direct link between tidally influenced channel morphologies in the topset part of the clinoforms and the occurrence of sediment gravity flows in the corresponding foresets (Figure 12). in most cases. tidally dominated part of the Orinoco delta system. 12). D).

this map shows high-amplitude 1506 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins reflections in the topset part of the clinoform that are interpreted as mouth-bar deposits associated with a shelf-edge deltaic system. these authors interpreted the clinoforms as not having bypassed significant amounts of sediment basinward. 8).. the system evolved into a regional MTD (Moscardelli et al. high amplitudes that are aligned with the main axis of the paleocanyon indicate gravitational flows (turbidites or debris flows) that bypassed sediments to the deep-water part of the basin. however. however.to be strongly progradational to aggradational and. seismic dissimilarities clearly highlight the location of collapse scars on the rollover part of the clinoform. it might also be an issue of seismic resolution. The semblance map of the SF2 clinoform also shows small-scale faults affecting the topset part of the clinoform (Figure 9D). The foresets of the SF2 clinoforms present high-amplitude continuous reflectors. D. It is also common to observe slides affecting the upper part of the clinoform foresets when the rollover trajectory surpasses the shelf break (Figures 5A. commonly. These faults are constrained within the clinoform package and are not connected to the deep-rooted structures associated with the Darien Ridge. Figure 9A shows the paleocanyon associated with the P10 horizon in the NSD and an individual SF2 clinoform that was mapped within the paleocanyon area (Figure 9B). as described by Moscardelli et al. 8. The scale of these clinoforms and the fact that their foresets always coincide with the location of the continental slope strongly suggest that these units were part of a shelf-edge deltaic system associated with the paleo-Orinoco delta. 9) clearly show that SF2 clinoform facies were in fact responsible for the bypass of sediment toward deep-water depocenters (Figures 5A. Depositional Environment Seismic Facies 2: Shelf-Edge Delta Clinoform heights reported within SF2 always exceed 200 m (656 ft). 2006). In the foreset part of the clinoform (Figure 9C). 1998). 2006) (Figure 9). (2003) are concentrated in a limited area of the shelf break between transects B and C where bypass zones were absent (Figures 5. The attribute-extraction maps do not show any clear evidence of the presence of channels within the topset part of the clinoforms (Figure 9). This change in seismic character along dip within single clinoform packages is an indicator of downslope-flow transformations from cohesive to more disaggregated flows (Mohrig et al. (2003) as purely sigmoid clinoforms in the SSD. seismic attribute extractions and isopach maps presented in this article (Figures 8. Basinward thinning of the clinoform packages that can be appreciated in both transects B and C (Figure 5) supports the interpretation of sediment retention in the outer . 9). An RMS amplitude-extraction was obtained using the clinoform surface as a reference horizon (Figure 9C). The difficulty in imaging distributary channels suggests that the shoreface part of the deltaic system was most likely exposed to wave action and storms that prevented the full preservation of channel-like geometries on the shoreface. As sediments were transported downslope. Seismic facies 2 are equivalent to what was described by Sydow et al. Observations made by Sydow et al. In this visualization.. Transect A (Figures 5A. Despite this previous interpretation. The seismic line shows that gravitational sliding affected the topset-to-foreset transition (rollover area) of the SF2 clinoforms and that sediments were bypassed through the paleocanyon axis toward the deep-water depocenters (this system was feeding MTC_1. 9). Figure 5A is a dip line that was taken across the main axis of the paleocanyon within the NSD.. whereas the bottomsets transition to lowamplitude chaotic reflectors. Figure 9D shows a semblance extraction that was obtained using the same clinoform surface. 9) clearly shows a series of slumps and slides affecting the rollovers of clinoform packages at the paleocanyon head. The lateral extension (alongstrike) of the clinoform was controlled by the location of the paleocanyon walls (Figure 9A). These small-scale faults on the topset of the clinoforms tend to define localized sedimentary pathways that link shelfal sediments with point sources in the rollover areas of the clinoforms. the rollover parts of individual clinoforms surpass the location of the previous shelf break basinward (Figure 5).

6).g. These authors reported the presence of SF4 facies downdip and beneath the delta clinoforms and assigned all series of depositional architecture to the SF4 occurrence (e. Seismic facies 4 (SF4) is mostly present in the SSD. However. and channel-levee systems).shelf–upper slope region for that particular area (Sydow et al. which exhibit high continuity and dip slightly toward the basin. presumably. These areas along transects A and D. This facies is restricted to the SSD (Figure 3) and is not volumetrically significant when compared with SF1 and SF2. seismic facies 3 (SF3) is composed of a thin package of high-amplitude continuous reflectors that can extend for several kilometers inland on the shelf (Figure 5B). the limited areal extension occupied by SF3 facies indicates that the slope fans were not well developed and that they were constrained to the upper part of the slope (Figure 3). Seismic Facies 4: Continuous and Parallel Seismic Reflectors This facies is characterized by the presence of high-amplitude. 8). confined nested channel complexes. however. Thickness of individual packages containing SF3 facies can range from a minimum of 75 m (246 ft) to a maximum of 150 m (492 ft).. given the observable seismic characteristics. and it essentially forms a high-amplitude onlapping wedge against the slope (Figures 5. On the shelf. gravity-induced processes (e. where discrete channelized features and small-scale slumping might occur. (2003) along transects A and D. Internal reflectors. Stratigraphic packages containing SF4 facies tend to have uniform thicknesses that average approximately 100 m (∼328 ft) but that can reach as much as 600 m (1969 ft) in some areas. In more updip positions. 6). Depositional Environment Seismic Facies 4: Prodelta to Upper Slope Deposits This seismic facies is equivalent to the prodelta to upper slope facies described by Sydow et al. which can easily be identified on the isopach map shown in Figure 8. The presence of a seismic multiple at the same approximate depth at which SF4 occurs makes it difficult to properly image these intervals using seismic attribute maps (Figure 5). which coincide with zones of greater accommodation defined by underlying structures. and parallel seismic reflectors that seem to be aggradational and within which few lateral or vertical variations can be observed (Figures 5. We agree that the SF4 facies might contain prodelta deposits most likely associated with fine-grained deposition occurring at the outer shelf and upper slope. 1507 . Alternatively. Seismic Facies 3: Onlapping Wedge This facies is mostly present in the SSD. 5). the continuous character of the seismic reflectors within this facies does not provide much of a lateral contrast for identification of stratigraphic boundaries that could be associated with geomorphological features. some channelized features might be present.. Depositional Environment Seismic Facies 3: Slope-Fan Deposits The wedgelike geometry of SF3 facies and clear onlapping against the slope (Figure 5) suggest that this facies was most likely generated by muddy slope-fan deposits. In addition. mass-transport complexes and channel-levee systems) do not seem to be a dominant component of the SF4 facies because chaotic and gull-wing seismic facies are not present (Figures 5. big-scale. 6). (2003). our access to a bigger data set allowed us to identify two bypass zones not previously identified by Sydow et al. where onlap terminations can be observed occurring against the trough of growth faults and against the P10 horizon (Figures 3.. However. are areas where SF2 clinoforms were able to bypass sediments into the deep-water blocks (Figures 5. mass-transport complexes.g. homogeneities associated with SF4 facies in terms Moscardelli et al. a small updip part of the slope wedge can be observed in some areas (Figure 5B) and. are most likely caused by the local gradient at the time of deposition. although the thinness of units containing SF3 facies on the shelf does not allow for the proper seismic imaging of probable geomorphological features in these areas. 2003) (Figure 5). continuous.

. 2006. semitransparent chaotic reflections that. 2009). This particular seismic facies was extensively documented in the study area by previous authors representing the main constituent of stratigraphic packages that can reach more than 250-m (820-ft) thickness in the deep-water blocks (Brami et al. It is common to see within SF6 facies the interaction between different gull-wing features that commonly dissect one another vertically and laterally (see figure 3 of Moscardelli et al. 2000. a series of continuous. and high-amplitude reflectors (seismic facies SF4) that . where the features commonly are superimposed on SF5 facies. Detailed descriptions of these volumetrically important deposits in the deep-water blocks were provided by Brami et al. can transition to localized. 1508 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins SEQUENCE-STRATIGRAPHIC INTERPRETATION: AN ATTEMPT Sequence-Stratigraphic Surfaces Sequence Boundary 1 (P10 Horizon) In the SSD. Alongshore and currentcontrolled processes could have also transported some of the sediments along the upper slope region.and highamplitude semicontinuous reflections (Figures 3.of seismic reflectivity and the lack of internal architecture also suggest that sediments within these units could have been deposited as a product of suspended-sediment load. and localized seismic responses are associated with semicoherent units that have been transported downslope in the form of slides. the chaotic character of the seismic reflectors is most likely related to the development of debris flows. 2009).and low-amplitude reflectors with variable continuity (Figures 3. 6).. Depositional Environment Seismic Facies 6: Levee-Channel Deposits Gull-wing seismic facies have been associated with levee-channel deposits (LCDs) in the deep-water blocks of eastern offshore Trinidad (Brami et al. Moscardelli et al. A detailed description of gull-wing facies in the deep-water blocks of eastern offshore Trinidad were provided by Moscardelli et al. and Moscardelli and Wood (2008). The more continuous. 2006). Clear development of SF6 facies can be observed in the lower slope area. 2006).. Seismic Facies 5: Chaotic Seismic Facies Chaotic facies. low. Moscardelli et al. 2000. Moscardelli and Wood. 1998).. in some regions. 2006. which start to become volumetrically significant in the lower slope region. Seismic Facies 6: Gull-Wing Seismic Facies Gull-wing seismic facies in the study area are characterized by high. or hydroplaned blocks. and strong currents could have reworked the sediments to the point that internal architectures were not preserved within the unit. 2008). Internal variations within this seismic facies are also indicative of flow transformations that can affect the level of disaggregation of the transported sediments (Mohrig et al. 6). Wood and MizeSpansky. are characterized by the presence of low-amplitude. where the underfilled space created by the previous erosion has been occupied by the later leveed channels (Moscardelli et al.. Thickness of the LCDs (SF6) increases along the main axis of the underlying MTDs (SF5).. slumps.. Moscardelli et al. high-amplitude. Levee-channel systems acted as conduits for sediments traveling from the sedimentstaging area on the shelf edge to the basin floor approximately 250 km (155 mi) to the east (Wood and Mize-Spansky. (2006). parallel. (2006) and Wood and MizeSpansky (2009). (2000). 2006)... SF6 facies are commonly overlapping SF5 facies that are associated with MTDs (see figure 3 of Moscardelli et al. Depositional Environment Seismic Facies 5: Mass-Transport Deposits This seismic facies has been associated with the development of MTDs (Moscardelli et al. 2006). In the deep-water blocks.

Moreover. and it also defines the top of MTD MTC_1 (Moscardelli et al. 11A). Moscardelli et al. In the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway. C). However. the correlative surface associated with MFS1 lies above stratigraphic packages that have been interpreted as MTDs (seismic facies SF5. 9). this horizon (P10) is highly erosional in the NSD (Figure 5A). seismic facies SF5) (Moscardelli et al. downlap surface) allows for the interpretation of MFS1. the MFS1 surface correlates with the upper boundary of a shelf-edge deltaic system (SF2 clinoform package). the composite seismic line that was taken along depositional strike in the shelf-margin region allowed us to establish a reasonable correlation for MFS1 from the south (SSD) to the north (NSD. The degree of erosion of the P4 horizon on the shelf and upper part of the slope and its regionally extensive character makes this surface a good candidate for defining a sequence-stratigraphic boundary (P4-SB2). onlap terminations of SF4 facies can be observed against the P10 horizon. In the NSD. and D show that an onlapping wedge (SF3 facies) lies on top of the P4 horizon in the slope part of the basin (Figure 5). Transects B. 5). the same characteristics are absent in the NSD (Figure 3). Figure 3). where it defines the base of a regional MTD (MTC_1. 2006) (Figure 7B).have been interpreted as prodelta to upper-slope deposits overlie the P10 horizon (Figure 3)..g. At the same time. Sequence Boundary 2 (P4 Horizon) In the SSD. C. The erosive character of the P10 horizon and its relationship with underlying and overlying strata (onlap terminations and truncation relationships) both in the NSD and SSD. but its occurrence is sometimes masked by the presence of the sea-floor multiple (Sydow et al. Interpretation of MFS1 in the NSD is only possible by establishing a direct correlation using direct mapping of the surface on a key seismic line across strike (see Figure 3). 2003) (Figures 3. 2006) (Figure 7C). 5). this surface is then truncated by a younger erosional event (P4 horizon) to the north near the Darien Ridge (Figure 3). the P4 horizon defines the base of an extensive levee-channel complex (SF6). C. 1509 . the P4 horizon clearly truncates the upper part of outer-shelf deltaic facies (SF1). Mapping of the MFS1 surface to the north was sometimes hindered both by the occurrence of the sea-floor multiple and by the poor quality of the 3-D seismic image (Figure 3). makes this surface a good candidate for defining a sequence-stratigraphic boundary (P10SB1. whereas the overlying units show onlapping relationships against this horizon (Figures 3. The use of conventional sequence-stratigraphic criteria within the SSD (e.. Maximum Flooding Surface 1 Maximum flooding surface 1 (MFS1) forms a highamplitude continuous reflector that can be clearly identified in some areas within the SSD. In the deep-water blocks. The P10 horizon maintains its highly erosional character in the deep-water parts of the basin. MFS1 can be identified as a downlap surface associated with overlying SF1 clinoforms (Figure 5B. however. Figure 3).. C. Figure 7C). the geometry of the P4 horizon continues to be highly influenced by the underlying architecture of the paleocanyon (Figures 7B. In addition. respectively (Figure 3). In the shelfal parts of transects B. defining the base of an incised paleocanyon (note truncation of underlying units) that is overlain by shelf-edge delta clinoforms (seismic facies SF2) (Figures 5A. The P4 horizon also truncated units associated with MTDs (SF5) and shelf-edge deltaic facies (SF2) in the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway and in the paleocanyon area. and D (Figure 5). the abundance of MTDs affecting the outer shelf–upper slope region in the NSD made it difficult to identify the MFS1 surface in this part of the continental margin (Figure 3). In the paleocanyon area (NSD). In the SSD. Systems Tracts Transgressive Systems Tract 1 Continuous and parallel seismic reflectors that are part of seismic facies SF4 overlie sequence boundary P10-SB1 in the shelfal part of transects B.. transects C and D show onlapping relationships of SF2 facies (shelf-edge deltaic systems) against the shelfal parts of the P4 horizon (Figure 5).

however. 7B. 2000). Steep clinoform packages (SF1) within the HST1 unit are interpreted to have formed as the result of the southwest-northeast progradation of the paleo-Orinoco delta to the outer-shelf region in the SSD (Figure 12). revised interpretations now suggest that not all mass-transport units conform to such sequence-stratigraphic predictions (Beaubouef and Abreu. 5. 3) allowed us to obtain a direct correlation across the entire margin that supports the previous interpretation by Moscardelli et al. 5). As shown in transects B and C (Figure 5). 5). if we move along strike only a few kilometers to the south. The base of the TST1 unit is defined by the P10-SB1 sequence boundary and its upper boundary by MFS1 (Figures 3. as well as by an increase in accommodation that was controlled by the underlying structures (see the previous description of NSD). As pointed out by Beaubouef and Abreu (2010). 1510 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins Moscardelli and Wood. Although some authors have proposed that MTDs occur in the basal parts of lowstand systems tracts (Beaubouef and Friedman. 12).and D in the SSD (Figure 5). but these units can also be initiated by a variety of autocyclic processes that include. MTDs or shelf-edge deltaic systems are not commonly associated with the occurrence of transgressive units (TST). but are not limited to. 2010). According to the traditional sequence-stratigraphic model. The existence of a transgressive shelfedge deltaic lobe in the paleocanyon area can be explained by an increase in sediment supply associated with the paleo-Orinoco River. Figure 3 shows how MTDs (SF5) located in the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway transition to shelfedge deltaic facies (SF2) in the paleocanyon area (NSD) (Figures 3. this new understanding of how seismic facies variations occur alongstrike (Figure 3) confirms the existence of an early transgressive shelf-edge deltaic system within the paleocanyon area that fed MTD MTC_1 downslope. Additional changes in seismic facies distribution within the TST1 unit occur toward the north. seismic facies associated with SF1 clinoforms (outer-shelf deltas) transition downdip into SF2 clinoforms . Beaubouef and Abreu. Recent addition of new data to the south (SSD) (Figures 1. the foresets of the clinoforms never merged with the continental slope and the system never developed into a full shelf-edge deltaic unit in this area. 12). 2008. Highstand Systems Tract 1 Highstand systems tract 1 (HST1) is composed of SF1 clinoforms that have been interpreted as an outer-shelf deltaic system in the SSD (Figures 3. The lower boundary of the HST1 unit is defined by MFS1 (downlap surface) and the top boundary by sequence boundary P4-SB2 (Figures 3. transect D shows a notable difference in terms of stratigraphic architecture and seismic facies distribution within the HST1 unit (Figure 5D). The availability of a continuous seismic data set along the shelf-break region (Figure 1) allowed us to document in detail and with a great degree of confidence the character and lateral variability of seismic facies distribution alongstrike within the TST1 unit (Figure 3). Moreover. changes in sedimentation rates. 5). MTDs may have sometimes occurred in response to allocyclic processes (sequencestratigraphic significance). SF4 facies transition to the north into MTDs (SF5) that occupy the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway (Figure 3). 2006.. (2006) (Figure 3). 2010). Moscardelli et al. 5. and local variations in slope gradients (Moscardelli et al. However. Note that SF4 facies are not present in transect A (NSD) and that a series of seismic facies transitions occur alongstrike from south to north within the TST1 interval (Figures 3. In transect D. The high-amplitude and continuous character of seismic reflectors within this package (SF4 seismic facies) and the onlap terminations against sequence boundary P10-SB1 on the shelf (SSD) suggest that this prodelta to upper slope unit was deposited during a transgressive event (transgressive systems tract 1 [TST1]). (2006) proposed that the aggradational character of shelf-edge deltaic clinoforms associated with SF2 facies within the paleocanyon area (NSD) and their relative stratigraphic position suggested that this unit had been generated during times of stillstand conditions or during the early transgression. Figure 3 shows that prodelta and upper slope facies (SF4) are dominant within the TST1 unit in the SSD. increased seismicity.

. Seismic facies associations are more laterally continuous alongstrike for the LST2 unit. 1990. as shown in transect D (Figures 5. although the paleo-Orinoco delta reached only the outershelf region in the areas between transects B and C (Figures 8. 5). Posamentier and Allen. and the clinoform foresets are steeper. a strong reflector defines the first major marine flooding event for this cycle that is equivalent to a transgressive surface (Figures 3. DISCUSSION: SEQUENCE STRATIGRAPHY. Similar to the observations made for the TST1 unit.(shelf-edge deltas) as the shelf break is approached (Figures 5D. 1990. and it has been interpreted as a lowstand wedge (lw) that was deposited during the last maximum glacial lowstand (Figures 3. The lower preservation of HST1 sediments in the NSD can be explained by the erosiveness of the gravity sediment flows affecting this part of the margin or by low sediment supply through the Columbus sedimentary pathway at this time. On top of the lowstand wedge (lw). Data suggest that. Posamentier and Allen. presenting more of a chaotic distribution (Figures 5D. (1990) and Mitchum et al.. the system was able to bypass the shelf-break boundary a few kilometers to the south. 5). These models also state that parasequences within the TST backstep inland in the form of a retrogradational parasequence set (van Wagoner et al. 12). The most notable differences between the deposits described in these Moscardelli et al. The previous observations suggest that.. AND STRUCTURAL CONUNDRUMS Thick TST1 and An Uncommon Paleocanyon Infill Obvious variations exist in the stratigraphic architecture observed within the TST1 unit that differ from the facies successions that are traditionally associated with transgressive units by conventional sequence-stratigraphic models. Classic as well as subsequent models describe the transgressive unit as bounded below by the transgressive surface and above by the downlap surface or MFS (condensed section) (van Wagoner et al. A southern bypass zone was active along transect D and sediments were delivered downslope into a deep-water depocenter (Figures 3. Figure 3 shows that the HST1 unit significantly thins alongstrike toward the north (NSD) and that the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway is occupied mainly by MTDs (SF5). Figures 3. along transect D. Finally. Posamentier and Allen. 1999). that developed within the paleocanyon area in the NSD (Figures 3. 1999). most of the sediment supply was concentrated to the south (SSD). 12). These elements include (1) basin-floor fans (bff) composed of LCDs (SF6) that occupy the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway and that extend to deep-water depocenters to the east. a regional lowstand wedge (lw) composed of a southwest-northeast progradational to aggradational clinoform package (SF2 facies) downlaps against previously described units (Figures 3. (2) onlapping wedges (SF3) that define slope fans (sf) within the SSD. 1999). Condensed sections develop during the time of transgression to early highstand systems and allegedly consist of thin hemipelagic or pelagic sediments that are deposited as the parasequences step landward and as the shelf is starved of terrigenous sediments (van Wagoner et al. 12). ALONGSHORE PROCESSES. (1993) can be identified within the LST2 unit. Moreover. This last downlapping package was part of a shelf-edge delta (paleo-Orinoco). 1511 Lowstand Systems Tract 2 Most of the elements that have been defined as components of the lowstand systems tract (LST) in the classical sequence-stratigraphic model as defined by van Wagoner et al. 5). differences between the seismic characteristics observed within the HST1 unit along strike are significant (Figure 3). and (3) a northwestsoutheast progradational to aggradational wedge (pw) composed of shelf-edge deltaic facies (SF2) . 5). the thickness of the HST1 unit increases downslope. 1990. and an interpretation of an LST for this interval is ubiquitous (both in the SSD and the NSD). 5). 5). 12). during HST1 time. where the outer-shelf deltaic system developed (transects B and C.

In addition. and stratigraphic facies successions alone is not enough to link the occurrence of stratigraphic units to specific changes on the relative sea level curve. 13C).. 1998. the stratigraphic location of these deposits immediately overlying the distal sequence boundary bypass horizon. Note that the isopach maps in the Columbus Basin . Kuehl et al. A higher density of faulting in the area where transect D is located (Figure 5D) and an increase in sediment supply in the southern parts of the basin were most likely responsible for the steepening of the slope and the eventual activation of a southern bypass zone (Figures 5D. even during times of transgression and under certain conditions. 2002. in West Siberia. 14B). Wetzel (1993) also pointed out that the size of basin-floor fans is controlled by the character of sedimentation rates instead of by sea level fluctuations alone. 1986. Meade et al. Warne et al. seismic stratigraphic architectures. sands were bypassed to the basin floor when relative sea level was at stillstand or rising slowly and even during times of transgression (Pinous et al... 2002. the geometry of the seismic terminations (onlaps against P10-SB1).. 13A) is not easily recognizable as a transgressive package. The concept of deltas prograding to the shelf edge during rising sea level is not new. Meade et al. The character and distribution of the seismic facies succession (prodelta to upper slope deposits). the NSD was affected by transpressional deformation that caused the development of horst and graben structures that favored the incision of a deeply erosive paleocanyon near the Darien Ridge (Figures 13A). Porebski and Steel. it has also been reported that. In contrast to the SSD. and the general architecture of the TST1 unit within the SSD lead to its interpretation as having been deposited by a transgressive event (Figure 5). Sediment supply in the Orinoco delta and sedimentation rates associated with the filling of the Columbus Basin have been shown to be high throughout the Neogene and to the Holocene (Eisma et al. and it has also been documented in modern deltaic systems (Burgess and Hovius. Whereas the SSD was affected mainly by the action of growth faults during this time (Figure 13B).. 1990)... 5A. resulting stratigraphic packages can continue to arrange themselves as aggradational and progradational clinoforms (SF2 facies) (Figures 3. Kuehl et al. Muto and Steel. Highstand Systems Tract 1 and the Importance of Alongshore Sediment-Transport Mechanisms Lateral stratigraphic variability along the shelf break within the HST1 unit suggests that different depositional configurations were operating along the continental margin during the late Pleistocene to Holocene (Figure 3). 1999). The presence and relative thickness of this transgressive package in the outer-shelf region of the SSD can be explained by (1) an increased accommodation on the downthrown side of the main growth faults that caused a stratigraphic wedging effect against main fault planes (Figures 13B) and (2) an increase in sediment supply along depositional strike resulting from the action of current-controlled processes (suspended sediment and bottom contour currents) that were able to transport sediments from the south (the Amazon delta is the most likely source of these sediments) (Eisma et al. 5). 1978. a process that encouraged ongoing point-sourced passage of sediment into downdip locations (Figures 9. 1978. 5). the time-equivalent interval of the TST1 unit in the NSD (Figures 3. 1986. These observations indicate that the analysis of stratigraphic stacking patterns.. 2006). Both conditions favored the development of a shelf-edge delta lobe that found its way to the head of the paleocanyon. Our observations suggest that.models and the observed TST deposits in the Columbus Basin are associated with the anomalously thick occurrence of the transgressive unit in the outer-shelf and upper slope regions of the SSD and the occurrence of MTDs and shelf-edge deltaic systems in the NSD (Figures 3. The main factors resulting in ongoing clinoform development during a transgressive episode in the NSD were related to (1) localized increase in accommodation provided by struc1512 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins turally enhanced paleocanyon geometry (Figure 9) and (2) uncommonly high sedimentation rates during this specific period in the northern parts of the basin (NSD) (Figure 13A). 1990).

The steep slopes and continuous input of sediments caused gravitational instabilities and subsequent collapses that fed the MTC_1 downslope (Moscardelli et al. where the northern bypass zone establishes a direct link between the Columbus sedimentary pathway (inner shelf).Figure 13. (C) Map-view sketch of the study area. 2006). the paleocanyon area (shelf break). 1513 . associated with the action of current-controlled processes that were transporting sediments from the south.. MTC = mass-transport complex. illustrating the relative position of main structural elements and the interpreted position of the paleo-Orinoco delta system during TST1 time. (A) Sketch of the processes occurring along the axis of the paleocanyon area during transgressive systems tract 1 (TST1) time (Transect A: northern structural domain [NSD]). Moscardelli et al. Notice that only the northern part of the deltaic system was able to reach the shelf edge during the TST1 period. The geometry of the accommodation created by the growth faults also generated a stratigraphic wedging effect. caused the development of a thicker-thanusual TST1 package. and the northern deep-water depocenter (slope) (Figure 8). (B) Sketch of the processes occurring along dip within the shelf-edge region in the southern parts of the basin during TST1 time (Transect D: southern structural domain [SSD]). High sedimentation rates affecting the northern parts of the basin and the availability of accommodation within the paleocanyon area allowed for the development of big-scale clinoforms (seismic facies 2) even during times of relative sea level rise (TST1). mfs = maximum flooding surface. do not show this southern bypass zone (SSD) as an area establishing a continuous sedimentary conduit between the inner-shelf and the upper slope region (Figure 8). The lack of this connection is in contrast with the characteristics observed in the NSD. This lack of connectivity in the SSD suggests that sediments in this region were most likely derived from two different sources: (1) sediments linked to current-controlled sediment-transport mechanisms and (2) line-sourced sediments derived from the paleo-Orinoco shelfedge deltaic system. The increased accommodation that was available on the downthrown side of the growth faults and the increased sedimentation rates.

No significant deep-water sediment bypass affected the study area immediately north of the southern bypass zone. TST = transgressive systems tract. (B) Sketch of the processes occurring along dip within the shelf-edge region in the southern parts of the basin during HST1 time (Transect D: southern structural domain [SSD]). gravitational instabilities on the clinoform foresets caused the development of gravity-induced deposits that fed the southern depocenter. Once the shelf-edge delta was fully developed.Figure 14. The paleocanyon area was either sediment starved or acting as a bypass zone because sediment preservation was low in this part of the basin. (C) Map-view sketch of the study area illustrating the relative position of the main structural elements and the interpreted position of the paleo-Orinoco delta system during HST1 time. the northern bypass zone was mostly inactive. steep clinoforms) to SF2 (sigmoid clinoforms) seismic facies as the system approached the shelf break. 12). During this time. the presence of counterregional faults in the area between transects B and C . mfs = maximum flooding surface. Notice how clinoforms were prograding across the shelf and transitioning from seismic facies 1 (SF1. (A) Sketch of the processes occurring along the axis of the paleocanyon area during highstand systems tract 1 (HST1) time (Transect A: northern structural domain [NSD]). and the main delivery of sediments toward deep-water locations was occurring through the southern bypass zone. In this area. MTC = mass-transport complex. between transects B and C (Figures 5. Moreover. sedimentation rates 1514 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins were not high enough to trigger progradation of the outer-shelf deltaic system (SF1) to the shelf break.

lw = lowstand wedge. but sediment bypass zones were only active within specific locations along the margin (northern and southern bypass zones). 1515 . Finally. In the paleocanyon area. a progradational wedge (pw) composed of a shelf-edge deltaic lobe that reached this part of the basin previously infilled the remaining accommodation within the paleocanyon area. and sediments were actively transported downslope through this southern bypass zone. mfs = maximum flooding surface. LCC = levee-channel complex. The paleo-Orinoco shelf-edge delta reached this part of the basin in a later episode within the LST2 time framework. (A) Sketch of the processes occurring along the axis of the paleocanyon area during lowstand systems tract 2 (LST2) time (Transect A: northern structural domain [NSD]). TST = transgressive systems tract. The map shows that.Figure 15. (B) Sketch of the processes occurring along dip within the shelf-edge region in the southern parts of the basin during LST2 time (Transect D: southern structural domain [SSD]). (Figure 12) caused the partial sequestration of sediments within growth-fault sediment traps along the upper slope region (Figure 15). the equivalent HST1 stratigraphic unit occupying the Columbus sedimentary outlet and paleocanyon area to the north (NSD) is composed of a thin Moscardelli et al. HST = highstand systems tract. the entire deltaic system was able to reach the shelf-edge region. sf = slope fans. during this time. (C) Map-view sketch of the study area illustrating the relative position of the main structural elements and the interpreted position of the paleo-Orinoco delta system during LST2 time.

an area located around transect C (Figures 5. progradational lowstand wedge (lw) that covered most of the continental margin. rates of sediment supply shifted significantly toward the south across the basin (Figure 14C).succession of MTDs (SF5) (Figures 3. The Columbus sedimentary pathway was the main conduit that allowed the cross-province transit of sediments associated with the different stages of evolution of the paleo-Orinoco deltaic system in the NSD. and (3) deep-water depocenters. Despite the relative homogeneity of the architecture observed within the LST2 unit. whose main axis parallels the shelf break (Figure 10). (2009) pointed out that growth-fault provinces can store large sediment volumes resulting from high subsidence. These units to the north are interpreted as localized masswasting events that were deposited when the NSD was relatively sediment starved (Figure 14A). and a progradational wedge (pw) occupying the paleocanyon area (NSD) (Figures 3. areas of sediment escape to the south (south end of counterregional fault) were able to connect with the southern bypass zone and transfer sediments into the deep-water depocenter (Figure 10). During TST1 deposition. During LST2 time. the sediment supply shifted toward the south (SSD). most of the continental margin was occupied by the paleo-Orinoco shelfedge deltaic system. Moreover. 2008). and storing sediment from the shelf to the slope area in eastern offshore Trinidad: (1) the Columbus sedimentary pathway. 5A). C). decreasing the sediment available for progradation onto the lower slope. 5). and a thick sediment body was generated in this area (Figure 10). 5. The upper part of the LST2 unit is a southwest-northeast. During times of HST1 deposition. Once sediments arrive at the shelf break. and Underlying Structural Controls Lowstand Systems Tract 2 and Growth-Fault Sediment Traps The LST2 unit can be subdivided into a lower and upper stratigraphic succession. 15). The main axis of the Columbus sedimentary pathway was positioned in its existing location by taking advantage of the structural low associated with a regional syncline that was flanked to the north by the Darien Ridge and to the south by the northern limb of an anticline related to the SEG high (Figure 8B). Our interpretation suggests that. ciated with slope fan (sf) deposits (SF3) and shelfedge deltaic facies (SF2) were trapped against counterregional faults in the upper slope region. This unit defines the last paleo-Orinoco shelf-edge deltaic system that developed during the last glacial maximum lowstand (Figures 3. delivering. Widths of the Columbus sedimentary pathway range between a minimum of 20 km (12 mi) within the inner shelf to a maximum of 40 km (25 mi) in its northeastern outlet near the shelf break (Figure 8). Receptacles. The trapped sediments were then redistributed alongstrike. and both northern and southern bypass zones were active (Figure 15). Sediments asso1516 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins Three geomorphological elements were crucial in transporting. northeast-southwest sedimentary conduit that occupies approximately 25% of the total area of the shelf in eastern offshore Trinidad. most of the deep-water sediment bypass was occurring through the northern bypass zone (NSD) (Figure 13). 10) contains growth-fault sediment traps that cause an anomalous stratigraphic thickening within the shelf break– upper slope region (Figure 10). (2) bypass zones. The Columbus sedimentary pathway is a greater than 100-km (>62-mi)–long. and deep-water sediment bypass occurred mostly through the southern bypass zone (Figure 14B. Carvajal et al. This abrupt shift in sediment supply most likely had to do with a tectonic uplift affecting the northern parts of the basin and associated with the dynamic of the CPBZ (Moscardelli and Wood. Conduits. forming an elongated stratigraphic unit. The lower stratigraphic succession is composed of three different elements that include a basin-floor fan (bff) occupying the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway. at this time. slope-fan (sf) deposits that are constrained to the upper slope region (SSD). three distinct sediment bypass zones define the main .

we can conclude that the location and geometry of the main geomorphological elements (sedimentary pathways. The southern bypass zone in the shelf-break region within the SSD is defined by an area where a counterregional fault dies out to the south. Finally. The existence of different structural domains along the eastern offshore margin of Trinidad (NSD vs. However. 8). the Heliconius and Catfish ridges define the northern and southern structural boundaries of the southern depocenter. The downslope termination of the paleocanyon merges with the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway constituting the northern sedimentary pathway (Figure 8). 2009). two depocenters. 2003. parts of the shelf margin in eastern offshore Trinidad near the northern and southern bypass zones can be classified as erosional shelf margins (Ryan et al. From the previous description. in turn. 2003. (2) the outlet of the Columbus sedimentary pathway (Figures 3. are fundamentally con- trolled by the location of the underlying structures that. According to our observations. the availability in this study of 3-D seismic data covering the entire basin has allowed for a more detailed characterization of the geometry of the margin. Similarly. Carvajal et al. 1517 . 2009) (Figures 9. 2009). 12. Sydow et al. Increased progradational rates have been linked to increased sediment influx and increased volumes of sediment being supplied to deep-water settings in a relatively short period.point sources for sediment delivery to the deepwater part of the basin (Figure 8). 8). these zones are (1) the paleocanyon area in the NSD (Figures 8. 2000. Sediment Supply and Margin Type Sediment supply was also fundamental in shaping the architecture of the shelf edge and in defining areas where sediment bypass occurred on the eastern offshore Trinidad continental margin. In contrast. allowing sediments to bypass into a deep-water depocenter (Figures 10. which define the whole shelf-to-slope basin architecture in eastern offshore Trinidad. The Pleistocene paleo-Orinoco shelf-edge delta complex has been identified as an extremely aggradational system (Wood.. 9). The Pleistocene paleo-Orinoco shelf-edge complex was defined as an aggradational system on the basis of calculations that were made using a few seismic lines taken along dip through the margin (Wood. 2000. 14. were infilled with more than 200 m (>656 ft) of sediment composed of gravity-induced deposits that account for a minimum sediment volume of 400 km3 within each depocenter (800 km3 in total) (Moscardelli et al. However.. The northern depocenter is flanked to the north by the eastern continuation of the Darien Ridge and to the south by the Heliconius Ridge (eastern continuation of the SEG high) so that the location and geometry of both the Columbus sedimentary pathway and the northern depocenter are defined by the continuation of the same underlying structures (Figure 8). From north to south. SSD) and the associated structural variability along strike have caused many variations in terms of stratigraphic architecture within the shelf-edge region through time. bypass zones. 2009). 8). 2006). and (3) the southern bypass zone located within the SSD (Figures 5D. respectively (Figure 8) (Moscardelli and Wood. 2008). during the last maximum glacial lowstand episode. and depocenters). Sediments reached the southern bypass zone through a dual system of sediment supply that consisted of clinoform architectures prograding over a relatively flat shelf while alongshore currents redistributed sediments across the outer shelf–upper slope region. control the nature of the accommodation within the basin (Figure 8). 10).. 15). each covering an area of approximately 2000 km2 (∼770 mi2). whereas high aggradational rates in deep-water margins are thought to infill their depocenters more slowly (Carvajal et al. The upslope geometry and orientation of the paleocanyon in the NSD are determined by the underlying structure associated with the Darien Ridge (Figure 4A). which established a direct connection between the shelf and the northern deep-water depocenter (Figures 3. Sydow et al. Carvajal et al. areas located between the two bypass Moscardelli et al. this study has shown that. The northern bypass zone acted as an important region of sediment transfer.. the sediments that managed to bypass the shelf break through the northern and southern bypass zones were deposited within two deepwater depocenters....

Several dip seismic lines (not just one) should document alongstrike changes in stacking patterns and seismic facies distributions along the shelf margin.000 km2 [5792 mi2]) 1518 Shelf-Edge Deltas along Structurally Complex Margins . The most IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS As previously noted. characterized by deltaic progradation to the shelf edge. The spatial detail afforded the model design resulting from extensive 3-D seismic data coverage (15. 8. the authors would provide the following insights to exploration geologists working on structurally complex shelf margins: 1. the availability of realistic stratigraphic. a clear understanding of the distribution and geometric arrangements associated with the main structural elements that are present in the study area is crucial. 2009) (Figures 5. and depocenters are fundamentally controlled by the underlying structural elements present in the shelf-margin region. through time. Elaboration of a reference seismic line along strike is crucial to identifying areas where lateral seismic facies variations might be occurring in the shelfmargin region (Figure 3). bypass zones. This characterization should be performed even in areas where only 2-D seismic lines are available—a basic step that seismic interpreters should follow in the early stages of the project. The uniqueness of the setting. we acknowledge that the lack of continuous 3-D data coverage (seismic and well data) in exploratory frontiers is a particular challenge when trying to predict the presence (or absence) of subsurface sandstone bodies. and paleogeomorphological models is crucial in guiding the interpretation so that areas and intervals within the shelf-edge region that are prospective for reservoir. 10). Stratigraphic architectures traditionally associated with different systems tracts can reside spatially adjacent to one another along the same shelf margin (time-equivalent units). The definition and mapping of stratigraphic stacking patterns. The decrease of seismic resolution and the increase of structural compartmentalization at characteristic reservoir depths also tend to hinder our ability to delineate stratigraphic architectures accurately. One attempt to improve our understanding of these complex shelf-margin settings is provided here—a shallow analog model for both passive and transtensional-transpressional structural margins. The model of shelf-margin processes and framework presented is designed by taking advantage of the following: 1.zones (transects B and C) can be classified as accretionary shelf margins (Ryan et al. seismic-stratigraphic architecture. as shown in Figure 5. 3. Therefore. The location and geometry of sedimentary pathways. However. before the reconstruction of the stratigraphic succession is attempted. all experiencing the same oceanographic processes and the same terrestrial climate and sediment conditions On the basis of observations made in this study. and seal can be identified. 3. Forced-regression shorelines will preferentially take advantage of predisposed topography at the shelf margin using structurally defined pathways of bypass before evolving independent bypass conduits. using observations from 2-D seismic sections and outcrop studies to generate models that try to explain 3-D sediment-transport processes in the shelf-margin and upper slope region is a process fraught with uncertainty. structural. 4. characterized by several different structural regimes in close proximity to one another. The additional detail afforded the model design resulting from the quality of seismic imaging (higher resolution at shallower depths) 2. and stratigraphic facies successions should be based on more than seismic lines oriented perpendicular to the shelf break alone.. trap. 2. In these circumstances. Note that. parts of the margin that were originally erosional transitioned into an accretionary margin by means of progressive infilling and healing of the original topographic lows that were generated by erosion during previous stages (Figures 13–15).

and (3) an oversimplification of the problem in assuming that factors such as local physiographic controls.g.. traditionally interpreted as forcedregressive lowstand deposits) in the northern shelf domain paleocanyon (NSD) during what appears to be conditions of broader margin transgression (Figures 3. 5) (Moscardelli et al. nearby deltaic systems). 6. 7. C).. these areas can be quickly filled up if secondary sources of sediments are available (Figures 5D. areas of active sediment bypass in the shelf-break region that are affected by intense mass-wasting processes do not seem to be areas where good-quality res- ervoir rocks might be encountered because most of the sedimentation would be associated with debris flows (Figure 8).. CONCLUSIONS Numerous authors have formulated theories that try to explain the significance of shelf-margin trajectories and stratigraphic architecture and the relationship of the two to deep-water sediment volumes. and even during times of transgression. and sigmoid clinoform packages (SF2) will be less likely to fail or generate longlasting sediment bypass zones (Figure 5B. Interpreters should be aware of the existence of out-of-plane. and semiregional variations in sediment supply cannot be incorporated into qualitative or quantitative models that try to explain the nature of continental-margin trajectories and their link to deep-water systems. Growth and counterregional fault pairs form growth-fault sediment traps that act as accommodation sinks on the shelf break and upper slope that can thieve sediments from downslope locations. without enough consideration of the regional context in which these features occur. causing scientists to form simplistic 2-D views of shelf-to-slope systems. Sequence architectures will respond to the presence of faults and preceding structures. high-supply systems (e. which is much more appropriate for addressing the three-dimensionality of this problem. The study documented herein uses a 3-D qualitative approach to such analysis. 50 km [124 mi]) is the development of aggradational and progradational clinoform packages (i. this scenario could be different for bypass areas that develop within smoother shelf-to-slope transitions and where turbidity currents can develop more easily. extreme example of this simultaneity of different systems tracts over a limited distance (i. 2006.e. In areas where fault density and intensity are subtler. Amazon delta in our study area).e.g. and they represent premier reservoir targets when sands are present within the system (Figure 10).g. In terms of facies distributions.5. Growth faults can also generate considerable accommodation near the shelf break. inducing the failure of upper slope sediments and the development of long-lasting bypass zones (Figure 5A. Steep clinoform packages (clinoform heights between tens of meters and 200 m Moscardelli et al. the underlying structural controls that might influence their architecture. Conclusions are commonly drawn on the basis of very little data. 13) (e. This study has demonstrated that the nature of clinoform development varied across the eastern Trinidad shelf margin during the last glacial maximum lowstand... Such formulations have led to erroneous assumptions regarding the ability to predict deep-water sediment volumes in deep-water settings on the basis of (1) description of clinoform architecture on single seismic lines or outcrop exposures. and this work). or the abrupt variations in geometry and scale that can occur along strike. Clinoform foresets will become steeper when highdensity faulting occurs close to the shelf break. large deltas) around the area of study and familiarize themselves with probable current patterns that could have introduced an additional sedimentary source into a specific study area from along strike (e. These sinks provide sweet spots in which sediments can accumulate. 8. underlying structures. However.. continental-scale current-controlled processes. 1519 . (2) the false idea that the shoreline has to regress entirely onto the shelf edge to allow the system to deliver sediments into deep-water locations and that these events are exclusively controlled by relative sea level fluctuations. D). steep clinoform packages (SF1) will tend to advance uniformly toward the shelf break.

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