Sedimentary Structures and Processes: Passive Continental Margins

Lecturers: Rüdiger Henrich, Tilmann Schwenk, Volkhard Spieß


Sediment dynamics on passive continental margins is in many respects relevant to society and will become even more important in the near future, e.g. the exploitation of fossil energy resources on the shelf and the upper continental slope as well as the development of high productivity areas as a main food resource amongst others. During this course we will evaluate sedimentary processes on passive continental margins by discussing classification concepts of transport and deposits and evaluating facies concepts and models. Particular themes will be: (1) the architecture of canyon/channel systems, (2) mass wasting deposits, and (3) contourite deposits and sediment drifts. Lectures on these themes include a comparative presentation of different case studies and practical exercises. This will be accomplished by courses on the early development of continental margins and on the evolution of old passive margins. In addition, short case studies will be carried out in groups of two students. Every group will describe and interpret a combined sediment echo sounder and core data set. At the end of the semester each group will give a short presentation describing and interpreting their data set.


- Main objective is to train the participants in evaluating and developing sedimentary and evolutionary models for the sedimentation dynamics on passive continental margins with particular emphasis on mass wasting.
- The students will apply and achieve high competence in advanced interpretation techniques of seismic and hydro-acoustic sections.
- They will be trained in visual core description and analysis of X-ray radiographs of passive continental margin sedimentary sections including various kinds of mass wasting deposits (e.g. debrites, turbidites, contourites, slide deposits).
- They will attain particular competence in studying and evaluating the interference between changes in climate and sea level driven sediment dynamics on continental margins and the magnitude, dimension and frequency of mass wasting phenomena.
- They will study the three-dimensional and temporal evolution of mass wasting phenomena and related processes and will attain high skill to develop evolutionary models concerning controls of continental margin sedimentation and evaluating its geohazard potential.


1. Each participant will work out a specific practical task and provide a written report about results and interpretation, e.g. for example to describe and interpret a combined sediment echo sounder and core data set. (counts for 20% of the total grade for the module)
2. In an combined oral examination the candidates will show their competences attained from this course and the courses "Sedimentology and Ecology of shelves" and Seismic and acoustic imaging" (counts for 60% of the total grade for the module).
With regard to this course the core competence is analysing and interpreting passive continental margin sediments including mass wasting and current controlled processes. The ability to use and integrate geophysical and sedimentological methods and provide an interdisciplinary interpretation of selected case studies will be tested. In addition, their theoretical background knowledge and competence to assess concept and models concerning mass wasting processes and their controls will be tested.


project exercise report


Handouts, respectively pdf files, including reference lists will be provided for each course.


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