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Overview of Our Research

The overarching objective of the Working Group on Sediment Generation is to synthesize, advance and communicate the geoscientific knowledge and understanding of siliciclastic sediment generation and evolution. Activities of the group involve research, communication, and education.

The group provides a virtual forum and network for sharing, encouraging, collaborating, and supporting research and learning activities. The organization promotes the communication of research by hosting informal and formal symposia and conferences where research can be shared, discussed, and reviewed by peers. The WGSG also organizes and edits publications dedicated to communicating research results, case studies and the latest concepts. Senior participants in the WGSG commonly organize, promote and teach seminars and short courses to provide students an opportunity to become familiar with specialized techniques, workflows and concepts that may not be available in their local curriculum. These courses are also available to the geoscience community at-large, as opportunities to expand their knowledge, experience-base and professional network.

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Present and Future


Our research encompasses a broad range of topics. Some studies aim to delineate and quantify the processes within sediment routing systems that generate and modify siliciclastic sediment, while others work to quantify the character and volumes of the particles and solutes that are the products of sediment generation.  The broad nature of our research involves knowledge and understanding of a number of geoscience sub-disciplines from tectonics and petrology, to geomorphology, paleoclimatology, sedimentology and diagensis. The integration of concepts and data across technical boundaries is challenging, but is required for the genetic, process-based, systems approach that we employ and promote.

Our research involves various approaches including work in the field, in the subsurface, and in laboratory settings, and includes the study of both recent and ancient sedimentary deposits.  Approaches include those that address sediment source (provenance), those that address sediment sink (character of basin-fill and diagenesis) as well as those that study the processes and deposits in between these two ends. Still others approach research questions by using statistical approaches to interrogate data or use forward and inverse analytical approaches to develop integrated concepts and models that will predict, or will de-convolve and interpret the signals preserved in the sedimentary record.

Planetary Desert


At the IAS2009 conference in Alghero, Sardinia, the plan was launched to form a European working group to address the problem of sediment generation in a systematic and quantitative way. The activities of the working group are not confined to research: important secondary objectives are to promote education of graduate students, and the exchange of specialised knowledge on aspects of quantitative sediment analysis and interpretation.

Desert Road


The working group on sediment generation is a network of geoscientists including specialists from various disciplines of geology as sedimentology, applied geomorphology, petrology, geochronology, thermochronology, geochemistry, numerical modeling and advanced compositional data processing applied to research on sediment generation and sediment routing systems. The basis of our work is well established. Sediment generation and evolution studies have been conducted in various forms for over a hundred years. The undisputed concepts that have been distilled from countless historic and more recent studies, can be summarised in terms of the factors that control sediment character and abundance.

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Properties of generated sediment can be attributed to conditions in the hinterland where it was formed. Tectonic framework, lithology of parent rock assemblages, climate and geomorphology are the initial fundamental controls on composition, texture and on the volume of siliciclastic sediment derived from continental settings. Properties of the sediment that ends up in a geologic deposit are considered to be a function of modifications imparted by transport, temporary storage, and depositional processes. Processes of transport, storage and deposition also change the composition and relative volumes of conglomerate, sand, silt and mud lithologies that are deposited in basins.

         Currently, the generation and evolution of siliciclastic sediment is viewed in the context of a continuous system. Siliciclastic sediment is generated in situ when weathering disintegrates and partially dissolves pre-existing parent lithologies and unconsolidated deposits. As that initial detritus is eroded and is transported, temporarily stored, then eventually deposited and buried, progressive changes in sediment composition and texture result. Processes such as concentration, removal, dilution, and mixing, result in absolute changes in particle type, mineralogy and texture. As the load of dissolved components and solid particles move through the transport and depositional systems, changes in relative abundances of the gravel, sand, silt, mud and solutes occur. After deposition, the processes of compaction, chemical diagenesis, structuring and exhumation overprint the detrital grain composition and depositional texture. New components are introduced to deposited sediment through fluid flow and biogenic processes.


This system of processes and products, described above, is the basis for past and current work and research conducted by the WGSG community. The results of this research have been recognized as being important to addressing challenges and questions within and outside the realm of sedimentary geology including:


- interpreting tectonic setting and history from sedimentary records

- quantifying magnitudes and rates of hinterland denudation

- determining the size, character and evolution of sediment routing systems

- interpreting paleoclimate from the character of the sedimentary record

- predicting the compositional and textural character of un-drilled sedimentary basins

- providing a basis for extrapolating the character and variability of known reservoirs and aquifers

-  developing realistic scenarios for interpreting petrophysical and seismic measurements.


         The intuitive guiding principles and general assertions that support application of sediment generation evolution principles are founded in sound logic and have been defended in a substantial number of publications, yet there is more to be learned, confirmed, and established as theory. The integrity of the application of sediment generation concepts and principles demands that a core community of specialists continues to advance an increasingly quantitative, integrated understanding, and strives to fill gaps in our knowledge of sediment generation and evolution.


Participants in the WGSG community have the common goal of advancing the overall understanding of sediment generation, and the evolution of sediment characteristics and volume from source to sink in the context of sediment routing systems. The organization will encourage collaboration across disciplines and will promote quantitative analysis and integrated interpretation of diverse data sets. By working together on common questions, in complimentary study areas and with standardized, integrated data bases, the collective effort will yield advances in understanding that have greater reach and broader implications that work done individually.

         Research will address gaps such as quantification of processes, rates and effects and will establish new concepts and methods for systematically distinguishing causes and effects when multiple processes are at play. Systematic measurement, documentation and quantitative characterization along with statistical and concept-based analyses of data will lead to development of hypotheses and models that can be proposed and tested for relevance in the context of changing Earth conditions, throughout geologic time.

         In addition to research, the group will set precedents in educating and raising general awareness of sediment generation and evolution concepts, principles, generalities, best practices, and subdisciplines will strive to set standards in data acquisition, compilation, interpretation and application. measurement, systematic documentation and quantitative characterization.

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