Submarine and fluvial channels exhibit qualitatively similar geomorphic patterns, yet produce very different stratigraphic records. We reconcile these seemingly contradictory observations by focusing on the channel belt scale and quantifying the time-integrated stratigraphic record of the belt as a function of the scale and trajectory of the geomorphic channel, applying the concept of stratigraphic mobility. By comparing 297 submarine and fluvial channel belts from a range of tectonic settings and time intervals, we identify channel kinematics (trajectory) rather than channel morphology (scale) as the primary control on stratigraphic architecture and show that seemingly similar channel forms (in terms of scaling) have the potential to produce markedly different stratigraphy. Submarine channel belt architecture is dominated by vertical accretion (aggradational channel fill deposits), in contrast to fluvial systems that are dominated by lateral accretion (point bar deposits). This difference is best described with the channel belt aspect ratio, which is 9 for submarine systems and 72 for fluvial systems. Differences in channel kinematics and thus stratigraphic architecture between the two environments appear to result from markedly different coupling between channel aggradation and overbank deposition. The methodology and results presented here are also applicable to interpreting channelized stratigraphy on other planets and moons.
- Received 27 May 2016.
- Revision received 27 August 2016.
- Accepted 30 August 2016.
- © 2016 Geological Society of America