Original paper

Sequence Stratigraphy: Methodology and Nomenclature

Catuneanu, Octavian; Galloway, William E.; Kendall, Christopher G.S.t.C.; Miall, Andrew D.; Posamentier, Henry W.; Strasser, André; Tucker, Maurice E.

Newsletters on Stratigraphy Volume 44 Number 3 (2011), p. 173 - 245

published: Nov 1, 2011

DOI: 10.1127/0078-0421/2011/0011

BibTeX file


Open Access (paper can be downloaded for free)

Download paper for free


The recurrence of the same types of sequence stratigraphic surface through geologic time defines cycles of change in accommodation or sediment supply, which correspond to sequences in the rock record. These cycles may be symmetrical or asymmetrical, and may or may not include all types of systems tracts that may be expected within a fully developed sequence. Depending on the scale of observation, sequences and their bounding surfaces may be ascribed to different hierarchical orders. Stratal stacking patterns combine to define trends in geometric character that include upstepping, forestepping, backstepping and downstepping, expressing three types of shoreline shift: forced regression (forestepping and downstepping at the shoreline), normal regression (forestepping and upstepping at the shoreline) and transgression (backstepping at the shoreline). Stacking patterns that are independent of shoreline trajectories may also be defined on the basis of changes in depositional style that can be correlated regionally. All stratal stacking patterns reflect the interplay of the same two fundamental variables, namely accommodation (the space available for potential sediment accumulation) and sediment supply. Deposits defined by specific stratal stacking patterns form the basic constituents of any sequence stratigraphic unit, from sequence to systems tract and parasequence. Changes in stratal stacking patterns define the position and timing of key sequence stratigraphic surfaces. Precisely which surfaces are selected as sequence boundaries varies as a function of which surfaces are best expressed within the context of the depositional setting and the preservation of facies relationships and stratal stacking patterns in that succession. The high degree of variability in the expression of sequence stratigraphic units and bounding surfaces in the rock record means ideally that the methodology used to analyze their depositional setting should be flexible from one sequence stratigraphic approach to another. Construction of this framework ensures the success of the method in terms of its objectives to provide a process-based understanding of the stratigraphic architecture. The purpose of this paper is to emphasize a standard but flexible methodology that remains objective.


sequence stratigraphystratal stacking patternsaccomodationsediment supplyshoreline trajectories