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In order to prepare ourselves for application of sequence stratigraphy to reefs and carbonate platforms, we first have to understand how shallow-water carbonate accumulations are formed. We therefore start out with an overview of basic rules that govern production, distribution and deposition of carbonate material in the marine environment. This overview is selective and focuses on those principles that are immediately relevant for the large-scale anatomy and seismic signature of reefs and platforms.

Three basic rules capture the peculiar nature of carbonate depositional systems—carbonate sediments are largely of organic origin, the systems can build wave-resistant structures and they undergo extensive diagenetic alteration because the original minerals are metastable. The implications of these rules are pervasive. We will encounter them throughout the chapters of this booklet, starting with this first section, which briefly reviews the principles of growth of reefs and production of sediments as well as basic patterns in the anatomy of carbonate accumulations.

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