Shelf-indenting canyons and their tributary systems are fairly common constituents of Quaternary shelves of active continental margins, but they have been rarely reported from older successions. Recognition of these prominent geomorphologic features in the ancient record has important implications not only for a proper understanding of shoreface-to-shelf depositional systems, but also from a petroleum exploration standpoint as they represent efficient conduits for moving coarse-grained river- and nearshore-borne sediments to the adjacent slope even during periods of relative rise in sea level. Coastal exposures of the lower Pliocene Súa Member in the surroundings of Súa (northwest Ecuador), preserve the unusual juxtaposition of incising submarine channels onto nearshore deposits. This succession accumulated along a narrow, active continental margin during tectonically induced transgression and affords a rare opportunity to evaluate the stratigraphic evolution of such systems from an outcrop perspective. A comprehensive facies characterization combined with application of sequence stratigraphic concepts has led to definition of the following physical surfaces and stratal units in ascending order. (i) A polygenetic, regionally extensive erosional surface resulting from the superposition of the wave ravinement surface onto the previous subaerial sequence boundary (SB/wRS). (ii) A nearshore, sand-prone lithofacies succession comprising a condensed basal shellbed deepening upwards through lower-shoreface bioturbated silty sandstones, into inner shelf sandy mudstones. (iii) Two steep, U-shaped erosional features (turbidite shelf-entrenchment surfaces), interpreted as shelf channels, deeply incised into the subjacent nearshore sediments and marking an abrupt deepening of facies. (iv) A thick, fining-upward sedimentary succession laid down within the confines of the channels by high- and low-density turbidity currents and including both bed-load (traction) and suspended-load deposits; the overall fining- and thinning-upward character exhibited by the infill of these channels is thought to reflect decreasing flow energies and is consistent with the gradual cut-off of clastic influx to their upper reaches in response to progressive detachment from an adjacent coastal source during relative rise in sea level. Based on detailed analysis of facies and a sequence stratigraphic interpretation of outcrop data, this study contributes to extend the existing sequence stratigraphic schemes, further attesting that shelf-sediment bypass and deep-water sedimentation can take place at sea levels other than lowstand
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