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Sediment deposition and preservation in Aeolian Systems:
A comparison of contemporary and ancient ergs

Sediment deposition and preservation in Aeolian Systems: 
A comparison of contemporary and ancient ergs Thumbnail


Ancient and contemporary aeolian systems have been subject of important conceptual advances in
recent years, however, a disconnect exists between the complexities inherent at the depositional
surface and subsequent controls on preservation. At the fundamental level, the depositional
environment consists of dune-fields, and the rock record is a stratigraphic architecture consisting of
cross-strata and bounding surfaces. Vast outcrops of ancient aeolian strata display huge amounts of
temporal variation manifest through dune-field evolution while the sedimentary record of
contemporary ergs remain largely unknown. In order to bridge these gaps this research utilises a range
of digitally based systems and techniques to analyse spatial data in order to unravel contemporary and
ancient system evolutions. The study utilised the Wahiba Sand Sea of Oman and the Jurassic Navajo
Sandstone of western USA as contemporary and ancient analogues respectively. Analysis of high to
medium-resolution satellite and geophysical datasets demonstrate that antecedent topography has
been a dominating allogenic boundary condition during the formation and growth of large linear
bedforms in the Wahiba Erg. There appears to be a hierarchy of autogenic processes influenced by
antecedent topography that imparts a uniqueness to the emergent dune-field pattern. The production
of large-scale virtual outcrop models permitted broad spatial analysis of three sites across the Navajo
Sandstone which represent marginal through central erg settings. Results show unique allogenic
controls relating to system architectures at each outcrop, some of which provide validations to
hypotheses made from observations within the contemporary analogue. The research demonstrates
that in extracting signals of allogenic boundary conditions within which autogenic system processes
evolved is the basis for the interpretation of geomorphic landforms and their stratigraphic record. The
analogues represent a point on a spectrum of preservations styles recently detected in aeolian systems
and provide additional examples with which to advance our knowledge.

Publication Date Jun 1, 2020


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