The sediments which accumulate at a continental margin following intial rifting represent a load on the lithosphere which should sag due to its weight. Backstripping studies in which sediment, as well as water, loads are removed from a margin during different geological intervals of time have now been carried out at both relatively young and old continental margins. These studies show that a number of factors affect the subsidence and tectonics of margins which include eustasy, the flexural strength of the basement, compaction and palaeobathymetry. The most likely other contributor to the observed subsidence is thermal contraction, following stretching of the margin at the time of initial rifting. Simple stretching models appear to be able to explain the exponential character of the tectonic subsidence of margin although a number of problems still remain. The most important of these are the relative proportion of syn and pre-rift to post-rift sediments and the amount of crustal thinning across the margin
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