Buffered, Incomplete, and Shredded: The Challenges of Reading an Imperfect Stratigraphic Record

Kyle M. Straub, Robert A. Duller, Brady Z. Foreman, Elizabeth A. Hajek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Climate, tectonics, and life influence the flux and caliber of sediment transported across Earth's surface. These environmental conditions can leave behind imprints in the Earth's sedimentary archive, but signals of climate, tectonic, and biologic change are not always present in the stratigraphic record. Deterministic and stochastic surface dynamics collectively act as a stratigraphic filter, impeding the burial and preservation of environmental signals in sedimentary deposits. Such impediments form a central challenge to accurately reconstructing environmental conditions through Earth's history. Emergent and self-organized length and timescales in landscapes, which are themselves influenced by regional environmental conditions, define spatial and temporal sedimentation patterns in basins and fundamentally control the likelihood of environmental signal preservation in sedimentary deposits. Properly characterizing these scales provides a key avenue for incorporating the known “imperfections” of the stratigraphic record into paleoenvironmental reconstructions. These insights are necessary for answering both basic and applied science questions, including our ability to reconstruct the Earth system response to prior episodes of climate, tectonic, or land cover change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019JF005079
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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