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The apparent prevalence of meter-scale lithologic cyclicity in shallow-marine carbonate and mixed carbonate-siliciclastic platform strata has led to the widely accepted paradigm that such meter-scale cycles are the fundamental building blocks of platforms. This view commonly is challenged, however, on the grounds that lithologic cyclicity or “ideal lithologic cycles” are difficult to demonstrate from statistical evaluations (for example, Markov chain analysis) of facies successions. This issue is of major importance in determining the accuracy of high-resolution chrono- stratigraphic correlations using present sequence stratigraphic techniques.

In this study we have used traditional and modified Markov chain analysis to evaluate the presence of cyclicity in backreef strata, the Seven Rivers Formation, of the Capitan reef. Traditional Markov analysis, similar to that used in previous studies, fails to verify the presence of cyclicity. Through the addition of stratigraphic data on the distribution of significant surfaces (subaerial exposure and hiatal) and the two-dimensional distribution of facies bodies, however, Markov analysis verifies the presence of cyclicity and even allows the statistical identification of potential “ideal cycles” in the system. Thus, meter-scale cyclicity does exist in this system, with the implication that previous studies may have failed to incorporate stratigraphic information necessary for an adequate evaluation of the existence of cyclicity.

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