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Sequence stratigraphy and architectural elements of the Giant Foresets Formation, northern Taranaki Basin, New Zealand

Abstract

The modern continental margin in northern Taranaki Basin is underlain by a thick, mud-dominated, Pliocene and Pleistocene succession (Giant Foresets Formation, GFF) clearly imaged in seismic reflection datasets. A study focusing on the geometry and internal reflection character of the GFF has revealed structural, sedimentological, and eustatic controls on its accumulation. Isopach maps prepared for northern Taranaki Basin show shifts through time in the main loci of sediment accumulation of the Mangaa Formation and Giant Foresets Formation. During the Early Pliocene (Opoitian Stage) deposition was focused in the southern part of the Northern Graben. The prograda¬tional front moved into the vicinity of Arawa-1 and Taimana-on the Western Platform during the early-Late Pliocene (Waipipian and Mangapanian Stages), forming large mounded slope fans. Through the latest Pliocene (Mangapanian - lower Nukumaruan Stages) the progradational front moved rapidly to the north and west through and across the Northern Graben to form a distinct shelf-slope depositional front. During the Pleistocene (upper Nukumaruan Stage – Recent), the progradational front straightened out, reaching the present position of the shelf-slope break. Even during the Pleistocene, broad subsidence persisted in the Northern Graben, trapping a proportion of the sediment flux being delivered to this part of the basin. The Late Pliocene part of the GFF, particularly where it prograded on to the Western Platform, displays classic clinoform profiles, with over steepening having resulted in mass-failure of paleoslopes. Major degradation of the shelf edge and slope occurred during the Early Pleistocene, reflecting a change in the calibre and flux of sediment sourced to the continental margin. Detailed examination of part of the GFF not significantly affected by mass-failure indicates that small-scale channel levee and overbank deposits dominate slope deposition, while basin floor deposits are characterised by slope-disconnected muddy and silty basin floor fans, with little lateral continuity between systems. In a sequence stratigraphic context, many of the dominant components of each seismic unit (slumps, fans, and channel-levee complexes) were deposited during the falling (RST) and low (LST) sea level parts of a relative sea level cycle, resulting in highly asymmetric sequences. While the GFF is considered to have minor reservoir potential in terms of containing sandstone-dominated stratigraphic traps, it does afford the opportunity to study in detail how deep-water clastic systems evolved in response to the various factors that control depositional architectures, particularly in a rapidly prograding muddy continen¬tal margin system

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