Recognition of Relative Sea-Level Change in Upper Cretaceous Coal-Bearing Strata: A Paleoecological Approach Using Agglutinated Foraminifera and Ostracodes to Detect Key Stratigraphic Surfaces
Neil E. Tibert, R. Mark Leckie, Jeffrey G. Eaton, James I. Kirkland, Jean-Paul Colin, Elana L. Leithold, Michael E. Mccormic, 2003. "Recognition of Relative Sea-Level Change in Upper Cretaceous Coal-Bearing Strata: A Paleoecological Approach Using Agglutinated Foraminifera and Ostracodes to Detect Key Stratigraphic Surfaces", Micropaleontologic Proxies for Sea-Level Change and Stratigraphic Discontinuities, Hilary Clement Olson, R. Mark Leckie
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Microfossils from Cretaceous coal-bearing strata can be used to establish key stratigraphic surfaces that mark marine flooding events with intermediate-frequency (fourth-order) and high-frequency (fifth-order) periodicities. We document several examples of this cyclicity from the transgressive and regressive facies at the land–sea transition of the Greenhorn Marine Cycle on the Colorado Plateau. Estuarine strata from the upper Cenomanian Dakota and middle Turonian Straight Cliffs Formations yield four primary fossil assemblages: Assemblage A, the lagoonal assemblage, comprising a rich agglutinated foraminiferal population of Trochammina and Verneuilinoides and brackish ostracodes and molluscs in a skeletal shell accumulation; Assemblage B, the proximal estuarine assemblage, comprising the brackish ostracode Fossocytheridea, charophytes, and smooth admetopsid gastropods within bituminous coal zones giving rise to distal estuary with the addition of brackish gastropods and sparse agglutinated foraminifera in sandy marlstones; Assemblage C, the open-bay (distal estuarine) assemblage, comprising the ostracodes Fossocytheridea posterovata, Cytheromorpha, Looneyella, and Cytheropteron, the foraminifera Trochammina and Ammobaculites, and ornate brackish molluscs in calcareous shelly mudstones; and Assemblage D, the marsh, comprising an exclusive population of the foraminifera Trochammina, Miliammina, and Ammobaculites in rooted lignites. Intermediate flooding surfaces are marked by normal marine taxa that are superimposed on the background of a primary marginal marine assemblage. In general, intermediate flooding events approximate lithologic and biostratigraphic boundaries and record basin-wide paleoenvironmen-tal changes with the advancing Greenhorn Sea. We correlate coal zones from the coast to maxima in calcium carbonate and planktic foraminifera in the offshore. The intermediate cycles approximate ammonite biostratigraphic zones and therefore maintain periodicities within the 100–400 kyr bandwidth. The onshore–offshore correlations suggest that a regional and perhaps global sea-level mechanism controlled the stratigraphic position of the coal zones. Superimposed on the intermediate cycles are higher-frequency cycles that represent short-lived flooding events. As many as six high-frequency cycles constitute an intermediate cycle, and therefore periodicities fall within an approximate 10–25 kyr range. The general asymmetry of the packages suggests that a combination of oceanographic, climatic, and autogenic processes influenced the high-frequency stratal architecture. Overall, the primary mechanism controlling the stratigraphic position of the coals was tectono-eustasy. Compactional processes and/or climate modulations contributed to the observed internal coal-zone cyclicity that we interpret as a secondary coal-forming process.
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Micropaleontology and biostratigraphy play vital roles for deciphering the stratigraphic record produced by changes in relative sea level, interpreting the history of global sea-level change, and testing models for the causes of sea-level fluctuations due to the variable influences of tectonics, glacio-eustasy, and climate. The stratigraphic architecture developed in response to changing eustasy, accommodation space, and sediment supply along continental margins, in epicontinental seas, and on carbonate platforms can be interpreted using the tools of marine micropaleontology. Microfossils provide chronostratigraphic control and a wealth of paleoenvironmental information about depositional environments as well as post-depositional changes to those environments. This volume demonstrates clearly that micropaleontologic proxies of environmental change provide a powerful dimension to the interpretive potential of stratigraphic sequences produced by changes in relative sea level and eustasy. Studies in the volume range from paralic to bathyal environments, span Pennsylvanian through Holocene stratigraphy, encompass a variety of microfossil groups and include a wide spectrum of techniques and paleoenvironmental proxies. The volume has been designed for graduate students and professionals interested in a wide range of subjects.