Stratigraphic architectures and associated unconformities of Pearl River Mouth basin during rifting and lithospheric breakup of the South China Sea

  • Xinong XieEmail author
  • Jianye Ren
  • Xiong Pang
  • Chao Lei
  • Hui Chen
Original Research Paper


The lithosphere breakup processes from initial rifting of the crust to the complete rupture of the lithosphere underwent several tectonic evolution stages and resulted in the formation of a distinct stratigraphic architecture and associated unconformities. In this study, a dense grid of seismic profiles tied to industrial borehole data are used to investigate the stratigraphic architecture and unconformity interfaces in the Pearl River Mouth basin of the northern South China Sea margin. The Pearl River Mouth typed rifted margin evolved from stretching, thinning, to finally seafloor spreading. Our results indicate that a distinct stratigraphic architecture with well defined unconformities are formed in the proximal to distal zone of the margin. The syn-rift strata have been constrained by the top of basement unconformity and the lithosphere breakup unconformity. Polyphase rift strata during lithospheric rupture process are mainly controlled by two fault patterns, high-angle normal faults and low-angle detachment faults. In the proximal domain, multiple episodes of syn-rift strata are characterized by vertical superimposed half-graben or graben type stratigraphic patterns separated by crack-related unconformity. However, in the more distal zones, syn-rift strata composed two distinct intervals separated by detachment-related unconformity, including small-scaled dispersed half-graben or graben at the lower part and large-scaled wide syn-detachment depression at the upper part. Based on these observations we provide an effective method for the correlation of sedimentary strata from the proximal to distal domains of the passive rifted margins during the lithospheric rupture process.


Stratigraphic architecture Seafloor spreading of South China Sea Passive continental margin Pearl River Mouth basin 



This work was supported by the National Scientific Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 91528301 and 41830537) and the Programme of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities (Grant No. B14031). We thank the China National Offshore Oil Company, the Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey and the Second Institute of Oceanography for permission to release the data. The authors greatly acknowledge the helpful and constructive reviews of Profs. Gianreto Manatschal, Changsong Lin, and Wucheng Chi.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xinong Xie
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jianye Ren
    • 1
  • Xiong Pang
    • 2
  • Chao Lei
    • 1
  • Hui Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tectonics and Petroleum Resources of Ministry of EducationChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.China National Offshore Oil Shenzhen Ltd., CorporationShenzhenChina

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