Carbonate-Biosiliceous Sedimentation in Early Oligocene Estuaries During a Time of Global Change, Port Willunga Formation, St. Vincent Basin, Southern Australia
Published:January 01, 2008
Noel P. James, Yvonne Bone, 2008. "Carbonate-Biosiliceous Sedimentation in Early Oligocene Estuaries During a Time of Global Change, Port Willunga Formation, St. Vincent Basin, Southern Australia", Controls on Carbonate Platform and Reef Development, Jeff Lukasik, J.A. (Toni) Simo
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The Port Willunga Formation is a cool–water, marine, quartzose, clay–rich, biosiliceous, and calcareous sedimentary succession of Early Oligocene age that accumulated in a series of proximal estuarine paleoenvironments along the eastern side of the St. Vincent Basin, South Australia. Coeval strata in two of the paleo–embayments are interpreted to record deposition during one ~ 3.5 My–long eustatic sea–level fluctuation. Transgressive facies above a ravinement surface comprise quartzose sands (subaqueous marine tidal dunes) that grade upward into fossiliferous floatstones and mudstones (shoreface to shallow basin–floor environments) that accumulated in a protected embayment. Highstand sediments are distinctly cyclic at the meter scale and consist of epifaunal bryozoan–pecten–echinoid clay–rich floatstones that become less fossiliferous but more spiculitic and chert–rich upward in each cycle. Whereas cyclic sediments in one embayment (Willunga) are interpreted to have accumulated on a current–swept, illuminated seafloor, those in the other (Noarlunga) are thought to have been deposited in a lower–energy, sub–photic setting. Cyclicity is interpreted to record the increasing influence of fluvial fresh water in the system during each sea–level fluctuation. Comparison with underlying strata reveals a striking similarity in depositional style and stratigraphic packaging between Late Eocene and Early Oligocene deposits; both are interpreted as paleoestuarine. Differences between the dark, organic–rich, biosiliceous, and low–diversity Eocene highstand deposits and the light, more calcareous, and more diverse Oligocene highstand deposits are interpreted to be due to local depositional controls. An important implication of local controls is that several postulated unconformities in the succession are not due to global eustatic changes but are ravinement surfaces related to estuarine sedimentation dynamics. Such controls, specifically terrestrial climate, hydrodynamic energy, and trophic resource levels were more important in determining sediment composition than eustasy and Southern Ocean cooling. Similar biosiliceous–carbonate sedimentary facies are a recurring feature of cool–water deposition throughout the Phanerozoic.
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Controls on Carbonate Platform and Reef Development
Carbonate platforms and reefs emerge, grow and die in response to intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms forced primarily by tectonics, oceanography, climate, ecology and eustasy. These mechanisms, or controls, create the physical, biological and chemical signals accountable for the myriad of carbonate depositional responses that, together, form the complex depositional systems present in the modern and ancient settings. If we are to fully comprehend these systems, it is critical to ascertain which controls ultimately govern the “life cycle” of carbonate platforms and reefs and understand how these signals are recorded and preserved. Deciphering which signals produce a dominant sedimentological response from the plethora of physical and biological information generated from superimposed regional to global-scale controls is critical to achieving this goal. With this understanding, it may be possible to extract common time- and space-independent depositional responses to specific mechanisms that may, ultimately, be used in a productive sense. Extensive research on a wide variety of carbonate platform and reefal systems in the past few decades has provided the foundation and understanding necessary to take carbonate research to a new level. With assistance from rapidly advancing computer software and an increasing use of cross-disciplinary integration, carbonate research is shifting from description and morphological analysis towards a science that is more focused on the assessment of process and genetic relationships. The aim of this special publication is to present a cross section of recent research that shows this evolution from a variety of perspectives and scales using examples distributed throughout the Phanerozoic.