Along modern convergent margins tectonic processes span a spectrum from accretion to erosion. The process of accretion is generally recognized because it leaves a geologic record, whereas the process of erosion is generally hypothetical because it produces a geologic hiatus. Major conditions that determine the dominance of accretion or erosion at modern convergent margins are: 1) rate and direction of plate convergence, 2) sediment supply and type in the trench, and 3) topography of the subducting ocean floor. Most change in structure has been ascribed to plate motion, but both erosion and accretion are observed along the same convergence margin. Thus sediment supply and topography are probably of equivalent importance to plate motion because both erosion and accretion are observed under constant conditions of plate convergence. The dominance of accretion or erosion at a margin varies with the thickness of trench sediment. In a sediment flooded trench, the proportions of subducted and accreted sediment are commonly established by the position of a decollement along a weak horizon in the sediment section. Thus, the vertical variation of sediment strength and the distribution of horizontal stress are important factors. Once deformation begins, the original sediment strength is decreased by sediment remolding and where sediment thickens rapidly, increases in pore fluid pressure can be pronounced. In sediment-starved trenches, where the relief of the subducting ocean floor is not smoothed over, the front of the margin must respond to the topography subducted as well as that accreted. The hypothesized erosion by the drag of positive features against the underside of the upper plate (a high stress environment) may alternate with erosion due to the collapse of a margin front into voids such as graben (a low stress environment). ?? 1986 Ferdinand Enke Verlag Stuttgart.