Submarine canyons play a fundamental role in land-to-ocean transport of sediment, pollutants and organic carbon. Moreover, canyons that are connected to terrestrial sediment sources are especially efficient in material routing. We aim to identify the main controls on (1) submarine canyon occurrence along continental margins and (2) whether a canyon head remains connected to terrestrial sediment input during sea-level rise. We assess these problems on a global scale using Bayesian regression and spatial point pattern analysis. One main conclusion is that submarine canyon occurrence increases exponentially with increasing gradient of the continental slope – a parameter that was calculated by smoothly interpolating between the shelf edge and the toe of the continental slope.