• Alice Gulliford

Student thesis: Phd


The Permo-Triassic lower Beaufort Group fluvial deposits extend over 100s of kilometres within the Karoo Basin, South Africa. A detailed study of the depositional architecture and stacking patterns of sand bodies within a 900 m thick succession has enabled interpretation of the controls on ancient river channel and overbank processes. Facies include very fine- to medium-grained sandstone, intra-formational conglomerate, mudstone and palaeosols. Channel-belts are dominated by upper flow regime structures, consistent with a flashy to ephemeral fluvial system. The overbank deposits comprise splays interbedded with purple, green and grey mudstone; these floodplain colour changes signify water table fluctuations.A hierarchy of channel-related elements has been established that recognises beds, bedsets, storeys, channel-belts, complexes and complex sets. Each channel-belt may be single- or multi-storey, whereby one storey represents the complete cut and fill cycle of a single migrating river, comprising bar accretion elements and channel-abandonment fill. The abandonment fill elements often consist of heterolithic plugs of climbing ripple-laminated very fine-grained sandstone, or interbedded claystone with siltstone. The Beaufort channel-belts preserve either lateral- or downstream-accretion patterns, or a combination. Each belt has either a lenticular or tabular geometry, recognisable by an erosional base overlain by intra-formational conglomerate lag and barform deposits.Genetically related channel-belts cluster to form complexes, of which two broad styles have been identified: Type A) laterally and vertically stacked channel-belts, and Type B) sub-vertically stacked channel-belts. There is evidence of localised clustering of sub-vertically stacked channel-belts adjacent to extensive overbank mudstone deposits. The apparent lack of a well-defined 'container' surface with mappable margins, suggests that this stacked channel-belt architecture represents an avulsion complex rather than a palaeovalley-fill.The lateral and stratigraphic variability in fluvial-overbank architecture is interpreted as the interplay of several controls. Allogenic forcing factors include, tectonic subsidence that influences accommodation, sediment supply, and high frequency climate cycles associated with the flashy discharge regime and expressed in the mudrock colour changes and distribution of palaeosols. The depositional river style, variability in channel-belt stacking patterns and compensational stacking of some channel-belt/splay complexes is interpreted to be the result of autogenic channel avulsion, supported by an absence of significant erosion. The relative merits of basin-axial trunk river and distributive fluvial system (DFS) models are assessed from detailed architectural and stratigraphic outcrop studies.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorStephen Flint (Supervisor)


  • Distributive fluvial system
  • Aggradation
  • Avulsion
  • Crevasse splay deposit
  • Semi-arid
  • Sedimentology
  • Flashy discharge
  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy
  • Ephemeral
  • Overbank
  • Moordenaars Member
  • Channel-belt
  • Beaufort Group
  • Lower Abrahamskraal Formation
  • South Africa
  • Channel-belt Complex
  • Karoo Basin
  • Fluvial
  • Hierarchy
  • Architecture
  • Permo-Triassic

Cite this