Sedimentary basins are regions of the Earth where long-term subsidence creates accommodation space for accumulation of sediments. As the sediments are buried, they are subject to increasing pressure and begin the processes of compaction and lithification that transform them into sedimentary rock.
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Sedimentary basins occur in diverse geological settings usually associated with plate tectonic activity. Tectonic processes that lead to subsidence include the thinning of underlying crust; sedimentary, volcanic, or tectonic loading; or changes in the thickness or density of adjacent lithosphere.
Basins are classified by their tectonic setting (divergent, convergent, transform, intraplate), the proximity of the basin to the active plate margins, and whether oceanic, continental or transitional crust underlies the basin. Basins formed in different tectonic regimes vary in their preservation potential. On oceanic crust, basins are likely to be subducted, while marginal continental basins may be partially preserved, and intracratonic basins have a high probability of preservation.
Sedimentary basins are of great economic importance. Almost all the world's natural gas and petroleum and all of its coal are found in sedimentary rock. Many metal ores are found in sedimentary rocks formed in particular sedimentary environments.