Sedimentary Basins

Sedimentary basins can be distinguished by their plate tectonic settings and characteristic rock types. At least six types can be recognised. These are summarised in the table below and related to our Tectonic models.

Within these global sedimentary basins, as deposition environments shift through time, patterns of sedimentary facies are produced, related to their depositional environment. As depositional environments change position, adjacent sedimentary facies will succeed each other in vertical deposition sequences, i.e. vertical changes of the lithology, due to transgression or regression, reflect similar lateral changes (e.g. sediments will coarsen laterally as well as upwards). Change may be caused by:


Basin Type Characteristic sediments Depositional
Examples of Global Tectonic Models
Rift or
Earliest rocks volcanic overlain by thick gravel
and sand; younger rocks may include evaporites
and limestones. Long lived sediment-filled grabens. Little deformation.
Rivers and lakes
changing to shallow-marine
continental rifts
Intra cratonic Homogeneous quartz-rich sands and limestones,
but may include muds, evaporites, or coal at
certain times. Little deformation.
Mostly shallow-
marine with some
platform sediments and basins
Passive margin Quartz-rich sands and limestones passing
seaward to muds. Diapirism.
Shallow-marine shelf
to deeper-marine
platform sediments and basins
Trench Fine sediments overlying ocean-floor basalts.
Extensive. Deformed accretionary wedge.
Deep marine accretionary prisms
Forearc\Backarc Varied thick sediments ranging from pelagic through
turbidites to alluvial fans, much derived from adjacent
orogenic belts. Volcanoclastics common.
Deformed accretionary wedge.
Non-marine to
deep marine
accretionary prisms,
fold and thrust belts
Foreland Heterogeneous gravels, sands and muds derived
from the orogenic belt and shed on to the continental
craton; may be coal-bearing. Relatively stable areas.
Mostly river and
foreland basins

(Partly after Dott and Batten, 1988)