Shallow Sandy Seas - UKM


Feb 22, 2014 (7 years and 8 months ago)



Kamal Roslan Mohamed

Shallow Sandy Seas

Shallow marine environments are areas of accumulation of substantial
amounts of terrigenous clastic material brought in by rivers from the
continental realm.

Offshore from most coastlines there is a region of shallow water, the
continental shelf, which may stretch tens to hundreds of kilometres out to
sea before the water deepens down to the abyssal depths of ocean basins.

Terrigenous clastic material is distributed on shelves by tides, waves,
storms and ocean currents: these processes sort the material by grain size
and deposit areas of sand and mud, which form thick, extensive sandstone
and mudstone bodies in the stratigraphic record.

Characteristic facies can be recognised as the products of transport and
deposition by tides and storm/wave processes.

Deposition in shallow marine environments is sensitive to changes in sea


The continental shelves and epicontinental seas
are important sites of deposition of sand and mud
in the world’s oceans and account for over half
the volume of ocean sediments.

These successions can be very thick, over
10,000 m, because deposition may be very long
lived and can continue uninterrupted for tens of
millions of years.

They occur as largely undeformed strata around
the edges of continents and also in orogenic
belts, where the collision of continental plates has
forced beds deposited in shallow marine
environments high up into mountain ranges.



The supply of sediment to shelves is a
fundamental control on shallow marine
environments and depositional facies of shelves
and epicontinental seas.

If the area lies adjacent to an uplifted continental
region and there is a drainage pattern of rivers
delivering detritus to the coast, the shallow
marine sedimentation will be dominated by
terrigenous clastic deposits.

The highest concentrations of clastic sediment
will be near the mouths of major rivers: adjacent
coastal regions will also be supplied with
sediment by longshore movement of material by
waves, storms and tides.

Sediment supply to shallow seas

Shallow seas that are not supplied by much
terrigenous material may be areas of
carbonate sedimentation, especially if they are
in lower latitudes where the climate is relatively

In cooler climates where carbonate production
is slower, shelves and shallow seas with low
terrigenous sediment supply are considered to
be starved.

The rate of sediment accumulation is slow and
may be exceeded by the rate of subsidence of
the sea floor such that the environment
becomes gradually deeper with time.

Sediment supply to shallow seas

Texturally, the grains of sand will have suffered a
degree of abrasion and the processes of turbulent
flow during transport will separate the material into
different grain sizes.

The compositional maturity will probably be greater
than the equivalent continental deposits, because
the more labile minerals and grains (such as
feldspar and lithic fragments) are broken down
during transport: shallow marine sands are
commonly dominated by quartz grains.

Shallow seas are rich in marine life, including many
organisms that have calcareous shells and
skeletons. The remains of these biogenic hard
parts are a major component of shelf carbonate
deposits, but can also be very abundant in sands
and muds deposited in these seas.

Characteristics of shallow marine sands

Shallow seas are environments rich in animal life,
particularly benthic organisms that can leave
traces of their activity in the sediments.

Bioturbation may form features that are
recognisable of the activities of a particular type of
organism, but also results in a general churning of
the sediment, homogenising it into apparently
structureless masses.

Primary sedimentary structures (wave ripples,
hummocky cross
stratification, trough
rossbedding, and so on) are not always preserved
in shelf sediments because of the effects of

Bioturbation is most intense in shallower water and
is frequently more abundant in sandy sediment
than in muddy deposits.

Characteristics of shallow marine sands


The shallower parts of the shelf are within the depth zone for wave action
and any sediment will be extensively reworked by wave processes. Sands
deposited in these settings may preserve wave
ripple cross
lamination and
horizontal stratification.

Streaks of mud in flaser beds deposited during intervals of lower wave
energy become more common in the deposits of slightly deeper water
further offshore

Facies distribution across shelf

Offshore transition zone

In the offshore transition zone, between the fairweather and storm wave
bases on storm
dominated shelves, sands are deposited and reworked by

A storm creates conditions for the formation of bedforms and sedimentary
structures that seem to be exclusive to storm
influenced environments.

Facies distribution across shelf


The outer shelf area below storm wave base, the offshore zone, is
predominantly a region of mud deposition.

The sediments are commonly grey because this part of the sea floor is
relatively poorly oxygenated allowing some preservation of organic matter
within the mud.

Facies distribution across shelf

The offshore facies mainly consists of
mudstone beds with some bioturbation.

This is overlain by offshore transition facies
made up of sandy tempestite beds
interbedded with bioturbated mudstone.

The tempestite beds have erosional bases,
are normally graded and show some

swaley cross

The thickness of the sandstone beds
generally increases up through the
succession, and the deposits of the
shallower part of this zone show more SCS
than HCS.

Characteristics of a shallow

A schematic graphic
sedimentary log of a

dominated succession.

The shoreface is characterised by sandy
beds with symmetrical (wave) ripple
lamination, horizontal stratification and
SCS, although sedimentary structures may
be obscured by intense bioturbation.

Sandstone beds in the shoreface may
show a broad lens shape if they were
deposited as localised ridges on the
shallow sea floor.

The top of the succession may be capped
by foreshore facies.

Characteristics of a shallow

A schematic graphic
sedimentary log of a


Offshore sand ridges

Near shorelines that experience strong tidal currents large sand ridges are
found on modern shelves.

The ridges form parallel to the shoreline in water depths of up to 50m and
may be tens of metres high, in places rising almost to sea level.

The sands are moderately well sorted, medium grained but the deposits
may include some mud occurring as clay laminae deposited during slack
phases of the tidal flow.

Deposition on tide
dominated shelves

Tidal sandwaves and sand ribbons

Currents generated by tides affect the sea bed tens of metres below sea
level and are strong enough to move large quantities of sand in shallow
marine environments.

The effects of waves and storms are largely removed by tidal currents
reworking the material in macrotidal regimes and only the tidal signature is
left in the stratigraphic record.

Deposition on tide
dominated shelves

Tidal sandwaves and sand ribbons

In seas with moderate tidal effects the influence of tides is seen in
shallower water, but storm deposits are preserved in the offshore transition
zone in these mixed storm/tidal shelf settings.

Deposition on tide
dominated shelves

A schematic
sedimentary log
through a tidally

influenced shelf

A schematic graphic
sedimentary log of a



mainly sand and mud, with some


mature quartz sands, shelly sands


generally moderately to well sorted

bed geometry

sheets of variable thickness,
large lenses formed by ridges and bars

sedimentary structures

bedding, cross

and horizontal lamination, hummocky and swaley


flow directions very variable,
reflecting tidal currents, longshore drift, etc.


often diverse and abundant, benthic
forms are characteristic


often pale yellow
brown sands or grey
sands and muds

facies associations

may be overlain or underlain
by coastal, deltaic, estuarine or deeper marine

Characteristics of deposits of shallow sandy seas