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CORRELATION AND SEQUENCE STRATIGRAPHIC INTERPRETATION OF UPPER DEVONIAN CARBONATE SLOPE FACIES USING CARBON ISOTOPE CHEMOSTRATIGRAPHY, LENNARD SHELF, CANNING BASIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

By
Kelly Hillbun
Kelly Hillbun
Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA
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Ted E. Playton
Ted E. Playton
Tengizchevroil, Atyrau 060011, Kazakhstan
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David A. Katz
David A. Katz
Whiting Petroleum, Denver, Colorado 80290, USA
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Eric Tohver
Eric Tohver
School of Earth and Environment, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia 6009, Australia
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Kate Trinajstic
Kate Trinajstic
Department of Chemistry, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia 6102, Australia
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Peter W. Haines
Peter W. Haines
Geological Survey of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia 6004, Australia
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Roger M. Hocking
Roger M. Hocking
Geological Survey of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia 6004, Australia
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Brett Roelofs
Brett Roelofs
Department of Applied Geology, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia 6102, Australia
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Paul Montgomery
Paul Montgomery
Chevron Upstream Europe, Aberdeen AB15 6XL, UK
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Published:
January 01, 2017

e-mail: khillbun@uw.edu

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ABSTRACT

Making reliable correlations and sequence stratigraphic interpretations can be challenging in depositionally complex settings due to depositional heterogeneity and data-set limitations. To address these issues, the Canning Basin Chronostratigraphy Project documented the development of a high-resolution, chronostratigraphic correlation framework across different depositional environments in the Upper Devonian (Frasnian–Famennian) of the Lennard Shelf, Canning Basin, by integrating stable isotope chemostratigraphy, biostratigraphy, magnetostratigraphy, and sequence stratigraphy. This integrated data set allows for a rare, detailed look at the carbon isotope record, and specifically its potential as a sequence stratigraphic interpretation tool and its application to improve correlation capabilities, both of which have implications for better understanding of the depositional history of the Lennard Shelf.

For platform-top settings, a sequence stratigraphic framework was constructed using stacking pattern analysis constrained by the paleomagnetic reversal record. In slope settings, where depositional variability and a lack of platform-top control have historically hindered our ability to recognize and correlate systems tracts, carbon isotope chemostratigraphy (in conjunction with conodont biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy) proved to be a useful chronostratigraphic tool because primary marine δ13C values were well preserved. Using the paleomagnetic reversal record, with additional age control from walkout correlations to key outcrop sections, we were able to confidently correlate from the platform-top into the slope. Evaluation of the slope isotope record, within the projected sequence stratigraphic framework from the platform-top, revealed that variations in δ13C values corresponded to changes in sea level. Using this relationship, isotopic trends were used as a proxy for delineating systems tracts in slope sections without direct platform-top control. In turn, this improved correlations through heterogeneous slope facies and also allowed for a refined sequence stratigraphic interpretation of Famennian strata in the Canning Basin. Results from this work also allowed us to develop a model that attempts to explain the observed relationships among global carbon cycling, sea-level fluctuations, and paleoceanographic conditions during the Late Devonian.

INTRODUCTION

Late Devonian strata record a dynamic interval in Earth history marked by major faunal extinctions, changes in global climate, rapid sea-level fluctuations, changeovers from stressed to normal marine oceanic conditions, and the widespread deposition of black shale horizons (e.g., Sandberg et al. 1988, Goodfellow et al. 1989, Buggisch 1991, Joachimski and Buggisch 1993, Walliser 1996, Wang et al. 1996, Bratton et al. 1999). In general, these biotic and paleoenvironmental events were also coincident with large perturbations to the marine geochemical record (e.g., Holser et al. 1996, Buggisch and Joachimski 2006). This is because carbon isotope excursions can reflect disequilibrium of the global oceanic carbon pool and therefore record periods of paleoenvironmental stress. Consequently, the Late Devonian δ13C record is highly structured and thus particularly useful for chronostratigraphic correlations. This is especially true for slope environments in the Upper Devonian (Frasnian and Famennian) reefal outcrops of the Canning Basin, Western Australia (Fig. 1), where primary marine isotope signals are well preserved (Stephens and Sumner 2003, Hillbun et al. 2015, Hillbun 2015).

Fig. 1.—

Simplified geologic map of the Lennard Shelf carbonate system showing sample localities and the general location of Upper Devonian reefal-platform and slope outcrop exposures (modified after Playford et al. 2009). Inset map shows the location of the Lennard Shelf within the greater Canning Basin in Western Australia. See Table 1 for nonabbreviated locality names.

Fig. 1.—

Simplified geologic map of the Lennard Shelf carbonate system showing sample localities and the general location of Upper Devonian reefal-platform and slope outcrop exposures (modified after Playford et al. 2009). Inset map shows the location of the Lennard Shelf within the greater Canning Basin in Western Australia. See Table 1 for nonabbreviated locality names.

Chronostratigraphic correlations are integral for developing sequence stratigraphic frameworks and for understanding carbonate depositional systems and sea-level cycles. However, making reliable sequence stratigraphic correlations and interpretations can be challenging in slope settings because it is poorly understood how sea-level changes are recorded in these depositionally complex environments (e.g., Playton et al. 2010). Outcrop and subsurface data-set limitations have historically hindered the ability of researchers to correlate across localities or to tie slope strata to the platform-top, where sea-level-driven stacking patterns are easily observed. As a result, it is unclear how systems tracts and depositional sequences manifest in the slope. In the Canning Basin, these problems (chronostratigraphic correlations and the recognition of stratigraphic surfaces) are further exacerbated by (1) the discontinuous nature of outcrop exposures across the Lennard Shelf, and (2) an abundance of cyanobacterial communities that form thick stratigraphic units of similar texture and lithology, particularly during the Famennian interval. Consequently, sequence stratigraphic interpretations of the Lennard Shelf reef complexes are not well constrained.

It is also poorly understood how sea-level changes manifest in the marine isotope record. Interpretations of sea-level change coincident with all major Late Devonian isotope perturbations differ substantially, such that the formation of positive δ13C excursions has been attributed to almost all phases of the sea-level cycle (Buggisch 1972, 1991; Johnson et al. 1985; Sandberg et al. 1988; Kennard et al. 1992; Becker and House 1997; George et al. 1997; Hallam and Wignall 1999; Holmden et al. 2006). This uncertainty arises, at least in part, because of the difficulty in discerning differences between global eustasy and local controls on sea level such as tectonic uplift and/or subsidence; for example, while the global ocean may be rising in response to the thermal expansion of the ocean, individual sedimentary basins may also be experiencing regional sea-level fluctuations due to orogeny or epeirogeny (e.g., Johnson et al. 1985).

To address some of these issues, the Canning Basin Chronostratigraphy Project (CBCP) developed a high-resolution, chronostratigraphic correlation framework across depositional environments in the Upper Devonian section of the Canning Basin by integrating stable isotope chemostratigraphy, magnetostratigraphy, conodont biostratigraphy, and sequence stratigraphy (Fig. 2; Playton et al. 2013, 2016). Such frameworks not only facilitate robust regional correlations and the comparison of age-equivalent stratigraphy in different settings worldwide, but they also enable exceptional in-depth analysis of the various data sets. Due to significant uncertainty in radiometric age dates for Devonian biozones (e.g., Kaufmann 2006), correlations and frameworks are presented against stratigraphic thickness, tied to well-established conodont biozones rather than absolute time. The term “chronostratigraphic” is therefore used to mean the correlation of time-significant surfaces and time-equivalent intervals as constrained by multiple corroborating data sets (Playton et al. 2016). Until further work is completed on absolute dates at a higher-frequency scale, we are unable to quantify variations in accumulation rates or address the timescales of Canning Basin sequences and isotope excursions with much certainty.

Fig. 2.—

Chronostratigraphic correlation framework, with nonstandard vertical scales, for Lennard Shelf carbonates showing the integration of carbon isotope chemostratigraphy (Hillbun et al. 2015, Hillbun 2015) with conodont biostratigraphy (Roelofs et al. 2015), and paleomagnetic constraints (Hansma et al. 2015). Blue and red triangles represent the interpreted third-order sequence stratigraphy for the Frasnian and Famennian (Playton et al. 2013, 2016). Framework correlates ~16 million years of Upper Devonian stratigraphy along 200 km of outcrop, and across depositional environments. Note that sections are not to scale.

Fig. 2.—

Chronostratigraphic correlation framework, with nonstandard vertical scales, for Lennard Shelf carbonates showing the integration of carbon isotope chemostratigraphy (Hillbun et al. 2015, Hillbun 2015) with conodont biostratigraphy (Roelofs et al. 2015), and paleomagnetic constraints (Hansma et al. 2015). Blue and red triangles represent the interpreted third-order sequence stratigraphy for the Frasnian and Famennian (Playton et al. 2013, 2016). Framework correlates ~16 million years of Upper Devonian stratigraphy along 200 km of outcrop, and across depositional environments. Note that sections are not to scale.

This paper focuses on the stable-carbon isotope component of this multidisciplinary approach, and specifically on how it relates to slope sequence stratigraphy and its application to improve correlation capabilities. By leveraging the integration of previously published data sets, we demonstrate the potential of secular, primary marine δ13C trends as a predictive sequence stratigraphic tool for identifying systems tracts and interpreting relative changes in sea level in various slope environments.

Here, we present our method for linking the carbon isotope record, derived from slope deposits, to sea-level changes by calibrating to the platform-top using biostratigraphic and paleomagnetic constraints. We discuss how we extrapolated away from platform-top control in order to generate our regional sequence stratigraphic framework for the slope using primarily carbon isotope trends. We also compare our results with data sets worldwide and present a model that links sea-level changes in the Late Devonian to the global isotopic record.

Stable Isotope Chemostratigraphy

Stable isotope chemostratigraphy has been widely used as a chronostratigraphic tool to aid regional and global-scale correlations (e.g., Vahrenkamp 1996, Menegatti et al. 1998, Montañez et al. 2000, Saltzman 2002) and can be particularly useful when other stratigraphic techniques fall short (e.g., Metzger et al. 2014). The use of this tool is based on the theory that marine carbonates record the isotopic composition of ambient dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the ocean. Because carbon is abundant and well mixed on a relatively short timescale throughout the surface ocean (thousands of years), coeval carbonates from around the world should exhibit similar δ13C signatures, assuming no secondary diagenetic alteration. As such, secular changes in δ13C values from well-preserved material enable correlation of strata across vast distances.

In addition to correlation capability, carbon isotope chemostratigraphy has also proven useful for interpreting paleoenvironmental conditions (Magaritz 1989, Holser 1997, Prokoph and Veizer 1999, Chen et al. 2002, Immenhauser et al. 2003). Changes in δ13C values of marine carbonates are dominantly controlled by changes in primary productivity and the global burial flux of organic carbon (Holser 1997, Kump and Arthur 1999). Several studies have also noted that sea-level change can be an important, yet indirect factor, by influencing ocean circulation, nutrient influx, the area of exposure surfaces, and/or other processes that directly affect productivity or burial conditions (e.g., Kump and Arthur 1999, Chen et al. 2002, Stephens and Sumner 2003, Katz et al. 2007, da Silva and Boulvain 2008). To date, however, the link between rising/falling sea level and positive/negative isotope values remains unclear.

The usefulness of isotopic trends for correlation and potentially for sequence stratigraphic interpretation relies on the preservation of primary marine δ13C values and can therefore be complicated by a number of local controls on isotope fractionation (e.g., Patterson and Walter 1994, Holmden et al. 1998, Swart and Eberli 2005, Katz et al. 2007). The Canning Basin is an ideal locality for geochemical investigation because past workers in this area have validated the use of bulk-rock analyses as a proxy for global seawater values (Stephens and Sumner 2003, George et al. 2014, Hillbun 2015), and a thorough diagenetic investigation, including petrographic analysis of thin sections and the microdrilling of individual carbonate components, has been previously conducted on the samples in this study (Hillbun 2015).

Moreover, the isotope record and data set collected from this region offer a unique perspective on the Late Devonian for a number of reasons: (1) Trace element data suggest that the Canning Basin experienced open circulation with the global ocean during the Late Devonian (Carpenter et al. 1991), (2) black shales, or otherwise organic-rich horizons that are typically associated with Upper Devonian global anoxic events (such as the Upper and Lower Kellwasser events; e.g., Buggisch 1991), are absent in platform, margin, and slope settings (Playford et al. 2009), (3) a high sampling density allows for the recognition of shorter-term events that may have previously gone unnoticed, and (4) a data set that integrates multiple stratigraphic techniques (e.g., biostratigraphy, lithostratigraphy, and magnetostratigraphy) allows for improved age constraints and a more detailed examination of the carbon isotope record.

GEOLOGIC CONTEXT

On the paleosupercontinent of Gondwana, between 10° and 15° south of the equator, the Canning Basin in Western Australia formed in response to various phases of crustal extension, rifting, and rapid subsidence during the Ordovician and Devonian (Begg 1987, Drummond et al. 1991, Kennard et al. 1994). Along the northern margin of this basin, a Givetian–Famennian-age carbonate reef system developed, and reefal platform, slope, and basinal facies were deposited on the relatively shallow and narrow (~50 km) Lennard Shelf (Figs. 1, 3; Playford and Lowry 1966, Playford 1980, Playford et al. 2009). Today, 350 km of outcrop exposures along the Lennard Shelf reveal remarkably well-preserved sequences of reefal carbonates that have been subjected to relatively mild structural deformation and diagenesis (Playford et al. 2009). The system is bounded to the north by Proterozoic rocks comprising what is known as the Kimberley Block, to the west by the Indian Ocean, and to the south by the fault-bounded Fitzroy Trough (Playford and Johnstone 1959). Extensive mapping and lithostratigraphic work in this region have defined nine formational units (Guppy et al. 1958, Playford and Lowry 1966, Playford and Cockbain 1976, Playford et al. 2009) that have been dated using conodont and ammonoid biostratigraphy (Becker et al. 1993; Klapper 1995, 2000, 2007; Becker and House 1997; Klapper and Becker 1999).

Fig. 3.—

Regional shelf-to-basin composite reconstruction of the Lennard Shelf, showing facies distributions and architectures within the sequence stratigraphic framework (red and blue surfaces and triangles; after Playton et al. 2016). Bold black lines are measured sections true to actual transect surface topography. This reconstruction honors measured section descriptions and extensive depositional dip data collected along transects. Plotted for reference are regional backstepping events (in blue writing, after Playford et al. 2009), conodont zones (standard zonations by Ziegler and Sandberg 1990; Montagne Noire zonations by Klapper 1989), and global Late Devonian events representing considerable sedimentological and/or faunal changes within the marine realm (House 2002). The events associated with the deposition of organic-rich material are denoted by solid rectangles. Note that the outcrop does not extend into the upper Famennian; the upper limit occurs within the marginifera conodont zone.

Fig. 3.—

Regional shelf-to-basin composite reconstruction of the Lennard Shelf, showing facies distributions and architectures within the sequence stratigraphic framework (red and blue surfaces and triangles; after Playton et al. 2016). Bold black lines are measured sections true to actual transect surface topography. This reconstruction honors measured section descriptions and extensive depositional dip data collected along transects. Plotted for reference are regional backstepping events (in blue writing, after Playford et al. 2009), conodont zones (standard zonations by Ziegler and Sandberg 1990; Montagne Noire zonations by Klapper 1989), and global Late Devonian events representing considerable sedimentological and/or faunal changes within the marine realm (House 2002). The events associated with the deposition of organic-rich material are denoted by solid rectangles. Note that the outcrop does not extend into the upper Famennian; the upper limit occurs within the marginifera conodont zone.

Sequence Stratigraphy

The supersequence-scale stratigraphy of the Lennard Shelf has been variously interpreted (for a summary, see George et al. 2013), but the regional growth history of the reef complexes has been well documented. It is generally accepted that there were two major phases of development: (1) the Givetian–Frasnian (Pillara) phase, proposed to be aggradational with bac-stepping of the reef margins in the early and middle Frasnian, followed by progradation in the late Frasnian, and (2) the largely progradational Famennian (Nullara) phase, bounded at the top by the Lennard Shelf reef extinction event at or near the expansa–praesulcata conodont zone boundary (Fig. 3; Playford 1980, 2002; Playford and Cockbain 1989; Playton et al. 2016). These long-term sequences are punctuated by higher-frequency changes in sea level, which resulted in a number of subordinate sequences, commonly referred to as third-order sequences in previous Canning Basin studies (e.g., Southgate et al. 1993, Playford 2002, George et al. 2013), and they will be referred to as such here. However, the role of eustasy vs. local tectonism on the development of shorter-term sequences remains heavily debated, and the exact number of these sequences is uncertain (Jackson et al. 1992; Southgate et al. 1993; Kennard et al. 1994; George et al., 1997, 2009; Playford et al. 2009).

The most recent and currently best constrained sequence stratigraphic framework for the Devonian reef complexes was developed from outcrop studies by the CBCP and describes seven third-order Frasnian sequences and three third-order Famennian sequences (triangularis to Lower marginifera Zones; Figs. 2, 3; Playton et al. 2016). It is this framework that we will use and expand upon in this paper. It should be noted, however, that sequences in the middle and upper Famennian (Upper marginifera to praesulcata Zones) remain undefined in this depositional model.

DATA SET AND METHODS

This paper focuses on only six of the 14 sections investigated by the CBCP, namely, SO, VHS, CL, MR1, WNB, and WNA (Fig. 1; Table 1; for a comprehensive overview of the CBCP data set, see Playton et al. 2016). The five transects and one core selected represent deposits from a range of platform and slope environments in various paleogeographic settings (Table 1; Fig. 1). Hand samples and drill-core plugs (2.5 cm diameter, 10 cm length) were collected at a submeter spacing of 16 to 95 cm (1 sample/59 cm on average) and were analyzed at the University of Washington for carbon isotope chemostratigraphy, at the University of Western Australia for magnetostratigraphy, and at Curtin University for conodont biostratigraphy. A preliminary framework integrating these data sets was first presented by Playton et al. (2013), but modifications have since been made (this paper; Playton et al. 2016) to include the most recent conodont data (Roelofs et al. 2015) and isotopic results (Hillbun 2015), as well as current interpretations of the paleomagnetic reversal record (Hansma et al. 2015) and sequence stratigraphy (Playton et al. 2016).

Table 1.—

Data-set details concerning the six sections discussed in this paper. Table includes stratigraphic thickness, depositional environment (EOD), paleogeographic setting, total number of samples collected by the CBCP, and isotopic analyses presented for each section and core measured.

Section Thickness (m) EOD Paleogeographic setting Samples collected Isotopic analyses* 
SO (South Oscar transect) 584.4 Middle–upper slope Isolated, open marine 905 412 
VHS (Virgin Hills transect) 102 Lower–middle slope Land attached, broad embayment 312 255 
CL (Casey Falls transect) 419 Lower–upper slope Land attached, reef promontory 833 379 
MR1 (McWhae Ridge Winkie core) 42.1 Lower slope/basin Land attached, reef promontory 155 146 
WNA (Windjana Gorge transect A) 143 Platform interior–reef flat Land attached, narrow shelf 314 74 
WNB (Windjana Gorge transect B) 171.3 Platform interior Land attached, narrow shelf 368 164 
Section Thickness (m) EOD Paleogeographic setting Samples collected Isotopic analyses* 
SO (South Oscar transect) 584.4 Middle–upper slope Isolated, open marine 905 412 
VHS (Virgin Hills transect) 102 Lower–middle slope Land attached, broad embayment 312 255 
CL (Casey Falls transect) 419 Lower–upper slope Land attached, reef promontory 833 379 
MR1 (McWhae Ridge Winkie core) 42.1 Lower slope/basin Land attached, reef promontory 155 146 
WNA (Windjana Gorge transect A) 143 Platform interior–reef flat Land attached, narrow shelf 314 74 
WNB (Windjana Gorge transect B) 171.3 Platform interior Land attached, narrow shelf 368 164 
*

This number reflects isotopic values interpreted as primary marine and does not represent the total number of isotopic analyses completed for each section (for details, see Hillbun 2015).

RESULTS FROM PLATFORM-TOP SETTINGS

Platform-top settings range from stromatoporoid boundstone bioherms to skeletal grainstones and more restricted peloidal wackestones (Read 1973a, Playford and Cockbain 1989, Hocking and Playford 2001). Many of these deposits are distinctly cyclic and commonly show shallowing upward cycles in the Givetian and Frasnian; during the Famennian, however, cycles are fewer and not as prominent (Read 1973a, 1973b; Playford et al. 1989; Brownlaw et al. 1996). Following the extinction of many fossil groups leading up to the Frasnian–Famennian (F–F) boundary, platform-top facies become increasingly oolitic and dominated by microbial assemblages (Playford et al. 2009, and references therein).

Bulk-rock δ13C values in platform-top sediments are variably reset and have been unpredictably modified by meteoric and burial diagenesis (Hillbun 2015). Consequently, chemostratigraphic correlations into and within platform-top successions are limited (Fig. 2). Complementary biostratigraphic age control is also lacking in the platform-top because Canning Basin conodonts and ammonoids are rare and undiagnostic in these shallow-water settings (Glenister and Klapper 1966). However, stratal stacking patterns are easily observable in Frasnian platform deposits and were used for identifying systems tracts; two geographically separated sections were investigated for repeatability. The paleomagnetic reversal record, which is also well preserved in platform-top facies (Hansma et al. 2015), was used to correlate platform-top sequences with higher confidence (Fig. 2). By combining stacking patterns and magnetostratigraphy, we developed a robust sequence stratigraphic framework for platform-top settings (Figs. 2, 3).

To improve platform-top age control, walk-out correlations were made between our platform sections (WNA and WNB) and the thoroughly studied “Classic Face” outcrop at Windjana Gorge, where limited biostratigraphic zones have been documented, and the long-term stratal architecture can be clearly observed (Playford 1980; see figure 11 in Playton et al. 2016). The walk-out correlations to Windjana Gorge provided a sequence stratigraphic context and coarse age placement for our platform-top transects; in the WNB section, Frasnian Sequences 5 and 6 are observed, and in WNA, Frasnian Sequence 5 and the transgressive systems tract (TST) of Sequence 6 are identified (Figs. 2, 4). The age control gained from the walk-out correlations was sufficient to correlate our platform transects to the slope using the paleomagnetic reversal record. In turn, this allowed us to project the platform-derived sequence stratigraphy into coeval, highly heterogeneous slope sections, providing a sequence stratigraphic context for the slope in which to evaluate the isotopic data (Figs. 2, 4).

Fig. 4.—

Example of platform-top sequence stratigraphy (third-order trends in WNB) projected into slope settings (SO section) based on magnetostratigraphic correlation (Eric Tohver, personal communication, 2015). Paleomagnetic chron names are after Hansma et al. (2015). Green arrows show general trends in δ13C values during transgressive systems tracts (blue triangles) and highstand systems tracts (red triangles), highlighting the observed link between carbon isotopes and sequence stratigraphy. Interpretation and age context for WNB were derived from a walkout correlation to the Classic Face section in Windjana Gorge (Playton et al. 2016). See Figure 2 for facies legend.

Fig. 4.—

Example of platform-top sequence stratigraphy (third-order trends in WNB) projected into slope settings (SO section) based on magnetostratigraphic correlation (Eric Tohver, personal communication, 2015). Paleomagnetic chron names are after Hansma et al. (2015). Green arrows show general trends in δ13C values during transgressive systems tracts (blue triangles) and highstand systems tracts (red triangles), highlighting the observed link between carbon isotopes and sequence stratigraphy. Interpretation and age context for WNB were derived from a walkout correlation to the Classic Face section in Windjana Gorge (Playton et al. 2016). See Figure 2 for facies legend.

RESULTS FROM SLOPE SETTINGS

Overview

Slope strata can be characterized by a range of dip angles (5–40°, as corroborated by geopetals; Playford 1980) and are highly heterogeneous due to a wide variety of deposit types, bedding styles, and laterally discontinuous architecture. These settings can be subdivided into upper, middle, and lower slope environments (see Playton and Kerans 2015a, 2015b). Dominant rock types include in situ microbial boundstone, margin-derived breccias and allochthonous blocks, platform-top-derived grain-dominated deposits, and silty background sediment, all of which vary in proportions depending on position along the slope (Playford and Lowry 1966; Playford 1980; George et al. 1997; Playton 2008; Playton and Kerans 2015a, 2015b).

In all slope settings, stable isotope chemostratigraphy (in conjunction with biostratigraphy) proved to be a useful chronostratigraphic tool because conodonts are abundant (Glenister and Klapper 1966), and primary marine δ13C values are well preserved in bulk-rock samples (Hillbun et al. 2015, Hillbun 2015). Biostratigraphic data constrained the relative ages of the isotope pinning points at the intrazonal level (where data were available), and magnetostratigraphy further corroborated correlations. As a result, we were able to make high-resolution correlations through heterogeneous slope sections with higher confidence. In fact, the large isotopic excursions in the slope provided some of the best constraints in slope settings and were essential for developing portions of the CBCP correlation framework (Fig. 2; Playton et al. 2016).

Carbon Isotope Excursions

Here, we summarize the major features of four high-resolution carbon isotope profiles from various slope settings (Table 2; for details, see Hillbun et al. 2015, Hillbun 2015). In general, four major positive excursions are recognized in Frasnian successions, and one major and six minor positive excursions are recognized in the Famennian (Table 2; Fig. 2). The major excursions, which are used as correlation pinning points, are interpreted as primary because they are recognized from multiple transects representing various slope settings and different paleogeographic environments, and they all have similar magnitudes of change (Tables 1, 2; Fig. 2). Moreover, several of the isotope excursions documented in this study can be recognized in sections worldwide (Fig. 5; Chen et al. 2002, Joachimski et al. 2002, Xu et al. 2003, Buggisch and Joachimski 2006, Morrow et al. 2009) and are commonly coincident with the deposition of organic matter, sea-level fluctuations, and/or faunal turnover, as reported by studies elsewhere (see following for specific references).

Table 2.—

Carbon isotope data relating to the major and minor positive excursions discussed in this study for the Lennard Shelf. δ13C values are relative to VPDB.

  SO VHS CL MR1 
Major Excursions   
EX 1 
Amplitude N/A N/A N/A +3‰ 
Maximum value       +4.2‰ 
Biozone       Within zones 1–4 
EX 2 
Amplitude +2.1‰ +2‰ N/A +1.1‰ 
Maximum value +3.3‰ +3.7‰   +1.1‰ 
Biozone Within zones 5–10 Within zones 6–10   Undiagnostic 
EX 3 
Amplitude +3.4‰ +3.5‰ N/A +3.7‰ 
Maximum value +4.4‰ +4.7‰   +4.7‰ 
Biozone Within zones 12–13a Within zones 12–13a   Undiagnostic 
EX 4 
Amplitude +2.5‰ +3.2‰ +2.8‰ +2‰ 
Maximum value +3.9‰ +4.6‰ +3.5‰ +3.6‰ 
Biozone Zone 13b Within zones 13b–c Zone 13b, triangularis Undiagnostic 
EX 5 
Amplitude N/A N/A +2.8‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +4‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Minor Excursions  
Mnr 1 
Amplitude +1 ‰ +0.6‰ +1.7‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.6‰ +2.6‰ +2.5‰   
Biozone U. crepida–rhomboidea U. crepida–rhomboidea U. crepida–rhomboidea   
Mnr 2 
Amplitude +1.2‰ +0.8‰ +2.1‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.5‰ +2.7‰ +2.6‰   
Biozone rhomboidea rhomboidea rhomboidea   
Mnr 3 
Amplitude +1.4‰ N/A +1.6‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.9‰   +2.6‰   
Biozone marginifera   marginifera   
Mnr 4 
Amplitude N/A N/A +1.8‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +2.5‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Mnr 5 
Amplitude N/A N/A +2.2‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +2.5‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Mnr 6 
Amplitude N/A N/A +1.8‰   
Maximum value     +2.8‰   
Biozone     U. marginifera   
N/A = not applicable. 
  SO VHS CL MR1 
Major Excursions   
EX 1 
Amplitude N/A N/A N/A +3‰ 
Maximum value       +4.2‰ 
Biozone       Within zones 1–4 
EX 2 
Amplitude +2.1‰ +2‰ N/A +1.1‰ 
Maximum value +3.3‰ +3.7‰   +1.1‰ 
Biozone Within zones 5–10 Within zones 6–10   Undiagnostic 
EX 3 
Amplitude +3.4‰ +3.5‰ N/A +3.7‰ 
Maximum value +4.4‰ +4.7‰   +4.7‰ 
Biozone Within zones 12–13a Within zones 12–13a   Undiagnostic 
EX 4 
Amplitude +2.5‰ +3.2‰ +2.8‰ +2‰ 
Maximum value +3.9‰ +4.6‰ +3.5‰ +3.6‰ 
Biozone Zone 13b Within zones 13b–c Zone 13b, triangularis Undiagnostic 
EX 5 
Amplitude N/A N/A +2.8‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +4‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Minor Excursions  
Mnr 1 
Amplitude +1 ‰ +0.6‰ +1.7‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.6‰ +2.6‰ +2.5‰   
Biozone U. crepida–rhomboidea U. crepida–rhomboidea U. crepida–rhomboidea   
Mnr 2 
Amplitude +1.2‰ +0.8‰ +2.1‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.5‰ +2.7‰ +2.6‰   
Biozone rhomboidea rhomboidea rhomboidea   
Mnr 3 
Amplitude +1.4‰ N/A +1.6‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.9‰   +2.6‰   
Biozone marginifera   marginifera   
Mnr 4 
Amplitude N/A N/A +1.8‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +2.5‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Mnr 5 
Amplitude N/A N/A +2.2‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +2.5‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Mnr 6 
Amplitude N/A N/A +1.8‰   
Maximum value     +2.8‰   
Biozone     U. marginifera   
N/A = not applicable. 
Fig. 5.—

Comparison of carbon isotope trends from the Lennard Shelf with Upper Devonian δ13C profiles from Europe and North America (see figure for specific localities and references). Dashed lines show biostratigraphic age constraints and are based on available conodont data from each study. Dark gray bars highlight major positive excursions of similar age, and light gray bars represent possible correlations of minor isotopic trends. Standard conodont zonations are after Ziegler and Sandberg (1990); Montagne Noire zonations are after Klapper (1989). Vertical spacing of conodont biozones reflects relative duration (based on radiometric dates from Kaufmann, 2006). Interpreted global events, after House (2002), are again plotted for reference (see Fig. 3 caption for further details). Asterisk denotes partial section.

Fig. 5.—

Comparison of carbon isotope trends from the Lennard Shelf with Upper Devonian δ13C profiles from Europe and North America (see figure for specific localities and references). Dashed lines show biostratigraphic age constraints and are based on available conodont data from each study. Dark gray bars highlight major positive excursions of similar age, and light gray bars represent possible correlations of minor isotopic trends. Standard conodont zonations are after Ziegler and Sandberg (1990); Montagne Noire zonations are after Klapper (1989). Vertical spacing of conodont biozones reflects relative duration (based on radiometric dates from Kaufmann, 2006). Interpreted global events, after House (2002), are again plotted for reference (see Fig. 3 caption for further details). Asterisk denotes partial section.

The first major positive excursion (EX 1; Table 2) is similar in time to the Frasnes event (House 2002), which has been related to transgression IIb of Johnson et al. (1985, 1986) by Ebert (1993), and it coincides with dysoxic conditions and the deposition of black shales in Europe, North America, and North Africa (Buggisch 1972, Belka and Wendt 1992, House 2002, Lüning et al. 2004). The excursion is comparable in time and magnitude (+3‰ amplitude, +4.2‰ maximum values) to the falsiovalis geochemical event reported by Buggisch and Joachimski (2006) and correlates most probably with Frasnian Sequence 1 (Playton et al. 2016), but an onset in Sequence 2 cannot be excluded.

The stratigraphic position of the second major positive excursion (EX 2) is not well constrained biostratigraphically (see Table 2; Fig. 2), but we were able to tie the upper limb (negative trending values) of the excursion into the platform using magnetostratigraphy. Based on the available paleomagnetic constraints, the upper half of EX 2 is correlative with the highstand systems tract (HST) of Frasnian Sequence 5, which is roughly time equivalent to the dysoxic conditions and faunal turnover associated with the Rhinestreet Shales (MN Zones 6–10; Fig. 5; House 2002).

Excursion 3 (EX 3) and the onset of excursion 4 (EX 4; Hillbun et al. 2015) are biostratigraphically correlative with two marine anoxic events (the Lower and Upper Kellwasser events, respectively) that are associated with globally recognized positive isotope excursions (Fig. 5) and significant declines in biodiversity (e.g., Buggisch 1972, 1991; Schindler 1990; Walliser 1996). The organic-rich shale horizons coincident with these two events also correspond to punctuated transgressive phases, and it has been widely accepted that they were deposited during periods of global sea-level rise (Johnson et al. 1985, Sandberg et al. 1988, Buggisch 1991, Hallam and Wignall 1999). EX 3 and EX 4 are also time equivalent to Frasnian Sequences 6 and 7, respectively, in the Canning Basin (Fig. 2; Playton et al. 2016). Using paleomagnetic constraints, we were able to confidently tie EX 3 to the WNB section and gain platform-top control (Table 2; Fig. 2).

Positive excursion 5 (EX 5; Table 2; Fig. 2) is only observed in one section, so its regional and global significance remains unknown. However, comparison with the Buggisch and Joachimski (2006) curve suggests that EX 5 may be correlative to the positive isotopic shift roughly associated with the Condroz and/or Enkeberg bio-events (Buggisch and Joachimski 2006) as recognized by House (1985), Becker (1993), and Walliser (1996). Six smaller positive excursions (Mnr 1–Mnr 6) occur in the lower and middle Famennian (Table 2; Fig. 2). Based on current available data, Mnr 1–Mnr 3 are correlative on a regional scale with the isotopic trends documented by George et al. (2014); Mnr 1 and 2 also have potential global significance, although this interpretation remains equivocal until further work is completed (Fig. 5).

Linkage of Sequence Stratigraphy and Carbon Isotope Trends

Using the paleomagnetic reversal record, EX 2 (partial) and EX 3 are the only isotope excursions we were able to directly calibrate to platform-top control, and they ultimately helped us to define our Famennian sequences in the slope. However, we were also able to infer (indirectly) some stratigraphic context for EX 4, since it is correlative with the Upper Kellwasser horizon in Europe, and thus its sequence boundary (SB) is coincident with the F–F boundary, a widely recognized SB with documented exposure and facies offset (Figs. 2, 3; Playford et al. 2009).

Examination of EX 2 and EX 3 within the projected sequence stratigraphic framework for the slope revealed a meaningful relationship between third-order systems tracts (as observed in platform-top settings) and trends observed in δ13C values derived from various slope facies (in the SO, VHS, and MR1 sections). For example, δ13C values associated with EX 3 showed a positive-upward trend during the Frasnian Sequence 6 TST, maximum values at or just below the Sequence 6 maximum flooding surface (MFS), a negative-upward trend during the Sequence 6 HST, and finally minimum values near the Sequence 6–7 SB. In general, δ13C values associated with the negative-upward trending limb of EX 2 showed a similar pattern with respect to the Frasnian Sequence 5 MFS, HST, and SB (Fig. 4). The relationship between carbon isotopes and systems tracts is best constrained and observed most prominently in the SO and VHS sections (Figs. 2, 4), specifically for the intervals of time equivalent to the Lower Kellwasser horizon and the Rhinestreet Shales (House 2002); however, it is also consistent with the available data and previously mentioned constraints for EX 4. The repeatability of this relationship suggests that these isotope trends may have some utility as proxies for identifying slope systems tracts in settings with fewer stratigraphic constraints (Figs. 2, 4).

Implementation of the Predictive Sequence Stratigraphic Tool

Based on the predictive nature of the previously discussed relationship (Fig. 4), we used isotopic trends as a proxy to extrapolate sequence stratigraphic interpretations across the data set, away from platform-top control. As a proof of concept, we first applied the proxy to the Frasnian age excursions that lacked sequence stratigraphic constraints, specifically EX 1 and the lower limbs of EX 2 and EX 4. In these cases, the isotope trends provided guidelines for sequence interpretations and helped with the placement of stratigraphic surfaces within the integrated chronostratigraphic framework (Playton et al. 2016). Using this approach, it worked out in most cases that minimum δ13C values were very near SBs, and maximum δ13C values were located at or just beneath MFSs (Fig. 2). It should also be noted that not all depositional sequences in the Canning Basin are coincident with major isotope excursions (Fig. 2; Playton et al. 2016); only the sequences that are also associated with previously interpreted anoxic/dysoxic events, as described from localities around the world (House 2002) and biostratigraphically correlated to the Canning Basin, correspond to major changes in δ13C values (Figs. 2, 5, 6, and references therein).

Fig. 6.—

Idealized carbon isotope trends observed from Canning Basin sections. Positive excursions are related to short-term sea-level fluctuations (gray is long-term trend; black is composite trend) such that increasing δ13C values correspond to transgressive systems tracts (blue triangles) and decreasing δ13C values correspond to highstand systems tracts (red triangles). A) Positive excursions in the Frasnian are also coincident with global events, as described by House (2002). B) Frasnian third-order sequence stratigraphy described by Playford (2002) and revised by Playton (2008) and Playton et al. (2016), as well as the proposed sequence architecture of the Famennian based on isotopic trends (this study). See Figure 3 for conodont zone references. The δ13C values are reported in per mil (‰) relative to Vienna Peedee belemnite (VPDB).

Fig. 6.—

Idealized carbon isotope trends observed from Canning Basin sections. Positive excursions are related to short-term sea-level fluctuations (gray is long-term trend; black is composite trend) such that increasing δ13C values correspond to transgressive systems tracts (blue triangles) and decreasing δ13C values correspond to highstand systems tracts (red triangles). A) Positive excursions in the Frasnian are also coincident with global events, as described by House (2002). B) Frasnian third-order sequence stratigraphy described by Playford (2002) and revised by Playton (2008) and Playton et al. (2016), as well as the proposed sequence architecture of the Famennian based on isotopic trends (this study). See Figure 3 for conodont zone references. The δ13C values are reported in per mil (‰) relative to Vienna Peedee belemnite (VPDB).

In attempts to refine and expand upon the sequence stratigraphic framework of Famennian slope strata in the Canning Basin, we had to rely more heavily on trends in the isotopic record because Famennian platform-top control was unavailable. Without the aid of the isotopic proxy, identifying stratigraphic surfaces based on stacking patterns alone would not have been reliable in Famennian strata, particularly in the CL section due to a thick interval (>250 m) of lithologically indistinct microbial boundstone (Fig. 2). Using the minor isotope trends observed from various slope facies (Mnr 1–Mnr 3; Fig. 2), at least three third-order Famennian sequences (Fa#) were identified from the SO and CL sections (Fa 1–Fa 3; Fig. 2; Playton et al. 2016). Fa 1 is constrained within the Famennian crepida Zone, Fa 2 within the crepida–rhomboidea Zones, and Fa 3 within the Lower marginifera conodont zone (Fig. 2). The regional chronostratigraphic correlation of these sequences is consistent with the integrated CBCP data set. It is possible that there are more Famennian sequences than those presented in the final CBCP correlation framework (Playton et al. 2016), given the occurrence of at least four more minor isotope excursions near the top of the CL section (Fig. 2). However, additional Famennian isotope records are needed to test their regional significance.

DISCUSSION

Chemostratigraphy Linked to Sea-Level-Driven Changes in Oceanographic Conditions

Our interpretations of the isotope records leading up to the F–F boundary in the Canning Basin (this study; Hillbun et al. 2015) agree with select European and Australian studies in concluding that the positive excursion associated in time with the Lower Kellwasser black shale horizon also corresponds to a eustatic transgressive interval (Joachimski and Buggisch 1993, Filer 2002, Stephens and Sumner 2003). Expanding on these results, the well-constrained data presented in this study, when integrated with sequence stratigraphy and correlated to similar age successions in Europe, argue that all Frasnian (and perhaps Famennian) geochemical events correspond to sea-level change (and the burial of organic carbon; Fig. 6), with transgressive intervals preferentially recording increasing δ13C values and highstand intervals recording decreasing δ13C values. This systematic response to systems tracts (sequence stratigraphic sea-level cycles) suggests a dependence of the carbon cycle on changes in sea level and oceanographic conditions (such as circulation), perhaps on a global scale.

Our results are most consistent with the model presented for the Maddison Limestone by Katz et al. (2007), which suggest TSTs are related to a general deepening and stratification of the ocean basin, which in turn facilitates the development of dysoxic or even anoxic bottom waters and subsequently raises the preservation potential of organic carbon (Fig. 7A). As sea level rises, the continual sequestration of 12C (during burial), under low-oxygen conditions, results in the gradual enrichment of the DIC pool (with respect to 13C), causing a trend toward more positive values (Fig. 7B). During the HST, as sea level becomes static or even begins to fall, deep ocean water starts turning over and mixing with well-oxygenated surface waters (Fig. 7C). The input of oxygen-rich water reduces the preservation potential of deep bottom water and also results in the decay of organic material at the seafloor. This liberation of 12C into the DIC pool causes δ13C values to trend toward more negative values (Fig. 7C, D).

Fig. 7.—

Conceptual model of the mechanistic links among carbon isotopes, sea level, and oceanographic conditions, as first proposed by Katz et al. (2007). A–D) Progression of isotopic values and the state of ocean stratification over the course of one third-order sea-level cycle. This model is conceptual and schematic; it does not reflect Lennard Shelf TST–HST stratal architecture.

Fig. 7.—

Conceptual model of the mechanistic links among carbon isotopes, sea level, and oceanographic conditions, as first proposed by Katz et al. (2007). A–D) Progression of isotopic values and the state of ocean stratification over the course of one third-order sea-level cycle. This model is conceptual and schematic; it does not reflect Lennard Shelf TST–HST stratal architecture.

However, this model may not be applicable to all localities in the Devonian. Tectonics and other local controls can drive relative sea-level changes and/or modify the global isotopic signal. This is especially true in more restricted basins or those near areas of active orogenies, where local changes in circulation, weathering patterns, or sediment input may influence sedimentation cycles, bottom water chemistry, and/or primary productivity (e.g., Johnson et al. 1986, Holmden et al. 1998, Immenhauser et al. 2003, Buggisch and Joachimski 2006, Panchuk et al. 2006, Śliwiński et al. 2011). As such, this model should be tested against records in other regions worldwide.

In contrast to our proposed model, some studies have linked enriched carbon isotope values to intervals of sea-level fall (e.g., Chen et al. 2002). In these cases, the authors commonly favor increased primary productivity as the isotopic driver, rather than enhanced preservation potential, citing the proliferation of land plants in the Devonian and the subsequent increase in the influx of land-derived nutrients to the surface ocean during regressions. While we cannot preclude the possibility of increased primary productivity during transgressive (rather than regressive) intervals, given the relatively narrow width of the Lennard Shelf, our findings in more distal settings (e.g., SO, VHS, MR1) do not support shallow-water eutrophication because productivity blooms are commonly restricted to nearshore environments, where the influence of terrestrial material is greatest (Riquier et al. 2006). Moreover, changes in biological productivity tend to result in shorter, more transient shifts (~103 years; Holser et al. 1996) in δ13C values. If we consider the (approximate) durations of isotopic excursions observed in our data set (~105–106 years, based on the correlation of our biostratigraphically constrained isotope data with limited U-Pb ages from Kaufmann 2006), the timescales are more consistent with long-term shifts caused by changes in the fractional burial of organic carbon (105 years; Kump 1991, Holser et al. 1996, Holser 1997). We prefer a model based on circulation and sea-level-driven changes in bottom water chemistry, at least for the Canning Basin, because (1) it is most consistent with our biostratigraphically constrained relationship between isotopic values and systems tracts; (2) there were no active mountain-building events in Western Australia at this time (Plumb 1979, Forman and Wales 1981), so weathering rates and continental runoff, which bring nutrients into surface waters, were presumably lower in the Canning Basin than they were in the orogenically active regions of Europe and North America (e.g., Dalziel et al. 1994); (3) recent trace element work on the Lennard Shelf supports episodes of low-oxygen conditions during the intervals coincident with the Upper and Lower Kellwasser horizons in Europe (Hillbun et al. 2015); (4) black shale deposits (Gogo Formation), believed to have been deposited under hypoxic conditions in the Canning Basin, occur in deep basinal settings during the late Givetian and early Frasnian (Playford et al. 2009); and (5) crude estimates of the timescale for higher-frequency sea-level cycles in the Lennard Shelf (~105–106 years, based on the approximate correlation of our stratigraphic sequences with radiometric age dates from Kaufmann 2006; Fig. 3) are in agreement with the mixing times of δ13C in the ocean–atmosphere system necessary to allow any changes arising from organic carbon burial to be transmitted to the DIC reservoir and resulting carbonate material (105 years; Kump 1991, Holser et al. 1996, Holser 1997).

Last, the Katz et al. (2007) model is well suited for the Late Devonian in general, given the dynamic sea-level history (e.g., Johnson et al. 1985, Haq and Schutter 2008), warm Frasnian climate, active tectonics, including the ongoing convergence of Laurussia and Gondwana, which constricted the Paleotethys seaway (Keppie and Ramos 1999, Stampfli et al. 2002, Torsvik et al. 2012), and the geographically widespread occurrence of organic-rich shale deposits (e.g., Wendt and Belka 1991, Joachimski and Buggisch 1993, House 2002, Rimmer 2004). These paleoenvironmental conditions likely contributed to, or even helped to set up, the linkages among the isotope record, sea-level change, and circulation.

Frasnian Controls on Sequence Development

It has been suggested that complex tectonism may have played a greater role than eustasy in shaping carbonate development and controlling higher-frequency sequences in the Canning Basin (e.g., Chow et al. 2004, Playford et al. 2009, George et al. 2013). Invoking this hypothesis requires episodic tectonism that variably affected stratal architecture over the length of the Lennard Shelf (~500 km). Such localized effects of tectonism on cyclicity would also hinder stratigraphic correlations between widespread localities (Filer 2002).

However, results from Frasnian-age strata in the Canning Basin (this study; Playton et al. 2016), when compared to coeval data sets elsewhere in the world, argue in favor of eustatic processes over tectonic drivers on sequence development. In this study, third-order sequences identified for the Frasnian (Fa 1–Fa 7; Fig. 2) are the same in number and roughly similar in timing as those described by Whalen and Day (2008, and references therein) for western Alberta, Canada. The timing and number of backstepping events in the Canning Basin (Playford et al. 2009, Playton et al. 2016) are also comparable, albeit not perfectly matched, to the timing and number of third-order transgressive–regressive (T–R) cycles proposed by Johnson et al. (1985) for Europe and North America. The carbon isotope excursions that are coincident with third-order sequences in the Canning Basin (EX 1–EX 4; this study) can be biostratigraphically correlated with excursions of similar magnitude elsewhere in the world (Fig. 5; Hillbun et al. 2015, Hillbun 2015). Moreover, the second-order trends of carbonate development on the Lennard Shelf (i.e., platform retreat during the late Givetian and most of the Frasnian, followed by platform advance during the late Frasnian and the Famennian) are similar to what has been observed in the Upper Devonian of Canada (Playford et al. 1989, Atchley et al. 2006). While discrepancies do exist between stratigraphic records from various localities worldwide, which is to be expected (discussed below), there are several lines of evidence, at multiple scales, for a global sea-level signal in the Canning Basin.

Minor discrepancies between records are not uncommon, particularly on a global scale, due to differences in biostratigraphic resolution, regional tectonism, localized faulting, accumulation rates, and/or the superposition of regional sea-level changes. More importantly, it is becoming increasingly clear that eustatic fluctuations are considerably more complex than previously suggested. Research in the late Frasnian of the Appalachian basin highlights the sedimentological variability of eustatic sea-level cycles and argues that deposition in some localities, particularly as it relates to the preservation of organic material, was more sensitive to global sea-level change than in other regions around the world, ultimately resulting in variable interpretations (Filer 2002). In a more recent study (Hay et al. 2014), computer model results found that the magnitude and direction of eustatic sea-level changes are not necessarily homogeneous on a global scale; isostatic adjustment associated with glacial–interglacial cycles can result in site-specific changes in eustatic sea level that can vary considerably from one locality to the next, depending on the location(s) of the growing or shrinking ice sheets. As such, discrepancies between eustatically controlled stratigraphic records are not only possible, they are to be expected, and thus the details of Late Devonian sea-level change are worthy of further investigation, both on a regional and global scale.

A complex sea-level history in the Canning Basin may explain the difference in number, stratigraphic thickness, and interpretation of the various sequences documented by stratigraphic studies of the Lennard Shelf. It may also explain why peak (maximum and minimum) isotope values in this study are not always directly tied with stratigraphic surfaces (Fig. 2); if δ13C trends are recording global variations in carbon cycling, then local variations in sea level, related to heterogeneous fault movement or differences in paleogeographic settings for example, could result in regional (sub-basin-scale) differences in stacking patterns and platform development (George et al. 2013). Depositional differences (e.g., sedimentation rates) may also be a contributing factor; on the slope, for example, the influx of terrigenous material and margin collapse events are variable on a meter scale and are also heterogeneous along strike. Localized zones of periodic upwelling could also locally influence the DIC pool, such that primary productivity and increased burial under low-oxygen conditions could have simultaneously contributed to changes in bottom water chemistry. We conclude, however, that Frasnian sequence stratigraphy and isotope chemostratigraphy (in concert with one another) in the Canning Basin record more of a eustatic signal than a tectonic one.

Famennian Controls on Sequence Development

The number of third-order Famennian sequences identified from isotopic excursions and constrained within the integrated CBCP framework (3; solid blue and red triangles in Fig. 2) is greater than what has been previously described for the same interval of time (triangularis to Lower marginifera Zones) in the Lennard Shelf system (e.g., Southgate et al. 1993, Playford et al. 2009, George et al. 2013). It is likely that additional Famennian sequences were not recognized by other studies because of differing sample resolutions and/or the general lack of thick, well-exposed sections through Famennian platform facies (Playford et al. 2009). Based on major and minor trends in the CL isotope record (EX 4 and Mnr 4–Mnr 6; Fig. 2), it is also possible that at least four additional high-frequency sequences exist within the marginifera conodont zone (Fa 4–Fa 7; Fig. 2), but their regional and global significance remains equivocal pending future high-resolution work on additional coeval sections. In any case, numerous higher-order Famennian sequences (three or more) are in agreement with what has been predicted for the Canning Basin (Playford et al. 2009), given that as many as eight sequences have been identified or postulated in Famennian sections elsewhere in the world (Johnson et al. 1985, Sandberg et al. 2002, Haq and Schutter 2008).

The Famennian sequences identified in the Lennard Shelf occur at considerably different times and at a much higher frequency than what has been predicted by Johnson (1985) or Haq and Schutter (2008) for eustatic sea level. While we do not expect the records to match perfectly, as previously discussed, a more regional interpretation of the Famennian sequences is supported by the isotopic data, which suggest regionally influenced δ13C values. Most of the Famennian isotope excursions are smaller in magnitude than those in the Frasnian, they generally do not coincide with the deposition of black shales elsewhere in the world, and many of them have not yet been recognized by studies in Europe and North America. Moreover, Famennian-aged samples in this study are primarily from shallower, upper slope settings dominated by microbial boundstone (Table 1; Fig. 2); as such, minor changes in relative sea level at thermocline depth, atmospheric pCO2 concentrations, and temperature could substantially affect microbial growth and biological productivity (Hinga et al. 1994, Bidigare et al. 1997, Kump and Arthur 1999), which in turn could influence the local DIC pool and result in isotope profiles unique to the Lennard Shelf.

It seems unlikely that Famennian sequences in the Canning Basin were tectonically influenced, as suggested by George et al. (2013), as there is little evidence for tectonism in Famennian slope deposits, especially on a shelf-wide scale (Playton 2008, Playton et al. 2016). We do, however, see some repeatability in our Famennian sequences across the data set, suggesting that relative sea level was a driving factor in sequence development along the Lennard Shelf. High-frequency stacking patterns identified within Famennian third-order composite sequences argue for a hierarchy of sea-level fluctuations in the Canning Basin (Playton and Kerans 2015b), some of which may have been regional fluctuations, while others may have been related to glacial–interglacial episodes during a time of gradually increasing Southern Hemisphere glaciation (e.g., Caputo and Crowell 1985, McGhee 1996). To further test this hypothesis, additional well-constrained, high-resolution records are needed from paleogeographically distant regions so that more detailed Famennian correlations can be made between the Canning Basin and other parts of the world.

Application of Carbon Isotopes as a Predictive Tool

Secular trends in carbon isotope values are particularly useful for sequence stratigraphic interpretation in slope and basinal settings during intervals of geologic time characterized by highly structured isotope records, and for subsurface research and exploration.

Carbonate slope systems are inherently complex and considerably difficult to characterize, predict, and correlate. However, carbon isotope chemostratigraphy (in conjunction with conodont biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy) proved to be a useful chronostratigraphic tool when primary marine δ13C values were well preserved in slope and basin deposits. Isotope-guided sequence stratigraphic interpretations also provided insight into what are increasingly becoming identified as complex stacking patterns in slope settings (Playton et al. 2016). Use of marine stable isotope values as a predictive sequence stratigraphic tool reached its limit in shallow platform-top environments due to the effects of exposure, meteoric diagenesis, and frequent siliciclastic material.

Paleoenvironmental perturbations in the Late Devonian lend themselves to producing a highly structured isotope curve useful for correlation and interpretation. Isotopic fluctuations essentially record the disequilibrium of the global (or a local) oceanic carbon pool and its relationship to stressed paleoenvironmental conditions. In other words, the chemical and biotic stressors during the Late Devonian ultimately provided the predictive sequence stratigraphic capability through the carbon isotope record. As such, the use of carbon isotope trends as a predictive tool on a regional or even worldwide basis may be most applicable to dynamic intervals in Earth history, such as during the Cretaceous period, when there were multiple faunal extinctions and oceanic anoxic events (e.g., Kauffman and Walliser 1990, Schlanger and Jenkyns 2007, Gradstein et al. 2012), or during the Carboniferous, when Gondwanan glaciers were expanding (Isbell et al. 2003) and large amounts of organic material were being deposited in marine settings (e.g., Bestougeff 1980, Walliser 1996, Berner 2003). In these two examples, previous work has documented a number of large isotope excursions in the carbonate record that have been attributed to paleoenvironmental perturbations and have also proven reliable for regional and global correlations (e.g., Grossman et al. 2008, Friedrich et al. 2012). For the Carboniferous in particular, links among δ13C values, sea level, and oceanic conditions have already been established (Katz et al. 2007).

The isotopic tool also has implications for oil and gas exploration, particularly in carbonate slope and basin reservoirs that exhibit some degree of complexity and correlation challenges like the Carboniferous fields of Kazakhstan (e.g., Collins et al. 2006, 2013; Katz et al. 2010) and the Permian fields of west Texas (Montgomery 1996, Clayton and Kerans 2013). In these types of reservoirs and plays, the need for high-resolution, predictive capability is evident because typical subsurface data sets (i.e., seismic and biostratigraphy) generally lack the necessary constraints for robust correlation and characterization on an adequate scale. Moreover, the predictive isotope tool can be tailored to work with core and cuttings as isotopic signals can be extracted from limited sample material and then integrated with the more traditional subsurface data sets (Playton et al. 2016).

CONCLUSIONS

Stable isotope chemostratigraphy proved to be a useful chronostratigraphic tool in Lennard Shelf slope and basin settings because primary marine δ13C values were well preserved, and secular trends were easily identifiable. Biostratigraphically constrained isotope excursions enabled improved correlation capability, and, when coupled with magnetostratigraphy and platform-top control, they aided in the development of a sequence stratigraphic framework for a heterogeneous carbonate slope-to-basin system.

Evaluation of the carbon isotopes within the integrated correlation framework revealed that positive δ13C excursions coincide with sequence stratigraphic subdivisions in the Upper Devonian (Frasnian) of the Canning Basin. This suggests that the excursions occurred in concert with sea level such that δ13C values became progressively enriched during transgressive systems tracts, reached maximum values at maximum flooding surfaces, and became progressively depleted during highstand system tracts and at sequence boundaries. This relationship suggests preservation of buried organic carbon (likely under low-oxygen conditions) during sea-level transgressions, followed by organic matter oxidation during sea-level highstands and regressions. The link between sea level and positive carbon isotope excursions offers a new approach for adding constraints to slope sequence stratigraphic interpretations in sections away from direct platform-top control. This type of tool is applicable to, and can be utilized in, both academic and applied settings.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We would like to express our sincere appreciation for our many funding sources (Australian Research Council Linkage Program–Grant LP0883812, ARC-QEII Grant Program, ARC-DORA-3 Grant Program, MERIWA, WAERA, CSIRO, Arc Energy, Chevron Energy Technology Company, Chevron Australian Business Unit, National Science Foundation [NSF], NAI, and the ESS Department at the University of Washington) for making this work possible. Thanks go to Paul Montgomery and Peter Cawood for envisioning the integrated chronostratigraphy project, and to Phil Playford for introduction to the outcrop belt. Field area access and resources were graciously provided by Windjana Gorge National Park, Napier Downs, the Mimbi Community, Mount Pierre Station, Fossil Downs Station, Brooking Downs Station, the Pillara Mine, and the Cadjebut Mine. Special thanks go to the Aboriginal tribes of the Bunaba and Gooniyandi (Kuniandi) people, who allowed us to conduct this research on their sacred lands.

We are grateful to Wundargoodie Aboriginal Safaris (Colin and Maria Morgan and family and crew), the Geological Survey of Western Australia, Chevron Australian Business Unit, and Steve Meyer, Sean O’Connell, and Bill Robinson of Chevron for their logistical support during field work. Additional thanks go to R.Addenbrooke, H. Allen, A. Duffy, G. Beacher, M. Diamond, K. Grice, J. Hansma, M. Harris, T. Holland, J. Hsieh, J. Kirschvink, L. Lanci, K. Liebe, E. Maslen, L. McEvoy, S. Pisarevsky, S. Shoepfer, U. Singh, M. Thorp, T. Tobin, S. Tulipani, A. Vonk, F. Wellmann, K. Williford, and M. Yan for their assistance in the field and valuable input during discussions. Thanks also go to E. Davies, M. Ducea, J. Klemm, F. Pardini, T. Raub, G. Rotberg, J. Sano, S. Slotznick, P. Ward, and M. Wright for logistical and/or analytical contributions. We extend special thanks to reviewers Harry Rowe, David Fike, and Charles Kerans for feedback and guidance that greatly improved the quality of the manuscript. R.M. Hocking and P.W. Haines publish with the permission of the executive director of the Geological Survey of Western Australia.

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Figures & Tables

Fig. 1.—

Simplified geologic map of the Lennard Shelf carbonate system showing sample localities and the general location of Upper Devonian reefal-platform and slope outcrop exposures (modified after Playford et al. 2009). Inset map shows the location of the Lennard Shelf within the greater Canning Basin in Western Australia. See Table 1 for nonabbreviated locality names.

Fig. 1.—

Simplified geologic map of the Lennard Shelf carbonate system showing sample localities and the general location of Upper Devonian reefal-platform and slope outcrop exposures (modified after Playford et al. 2009). Inset map shows the location of the Lennard Shelf within the greater Canning Basin in Western Australia. See Table 1 for nonabbreviated locality names.

Fig. 2.—

Chronostratigraphic correlation framework, with nonstandard vertical scales, for Lennard Shelf carbonates showing the integration of carbon isotope chemostratigraphy (Hillbun et al. 2015, Hillbun 2015) with conodont biostratigraphy (Roelofs et al. 2015), and paleomagnetic constraints (Hansma et al. 2015). Blue and red triangles represent the interpreted third-order sequence stratigraphy for the Frasnian and Famennian (Playton et al. 2013, 2016). Framework correlates ~16 million years of Upper Devonian stratigraphy along 200 km of outcrop, and across depositional environments. Note that sections are not to scale.

Fig. 2.—

Chronostratigraphic correlation framework, with nonstandard vertical scales, for Lennard Shelf carbonates showing the integration of carbon isotope chemostratigraphy (Hillbun et al. 2015, Hillbun 2015) with conodont biostratigraphy (Roelofs et al. 2015), and paleomagnetic constraints (Hansma et al. 2015). Blue and red triangles represent the interpreted third-order sequence stratigraphy for the Frasnian and Famennian (Playton et al. 2013, 2016). Framework correlates ~16 million years of Upper Devonian stratigraphy along 200 km of outcrop, and across depositional environments. Note that sections are not to scale.

Fig. 3.—

Regional shelf-to-basin composite reconstruction of the Lennard Shelf, showing facies distributions and architectures within the sequence stratigraphic framework (red and blue surfaces and triangles; after Playton et al. 2016). Bold black lines are measured sections true to actual transect surface topography. This reconstruction honors measured section descriptions and extensive depositional dip data collected along transects. Plotted for reference are regional backstepping events (in blue writing, after Playford et al. 2009), conodont zones (standard zonations by Ziegler and Sandberg 1990; Montagne Noire zonations by Klapper 1989), and global Late Devonian events representing considerable sedimentological and/or faunal changes within the marine realm (House 2002). The events associated with the deposition of organic-rich material are denoted by solid rectangles. Note that the outcrop does not extend into the upper Famennian; the upper limit occurs within the marginifera conodont zone.

Fig. 3.—

Regional shelf-to-basin composite reconstruction of the Lennard Shelf, showing facies distributions and architectures within the sequence stratigraphic framework (red and blue surfaces and triangles; after Playton et al. 2016). Bold black lines are measured sections true to actual transect surface topography. This reconstruction honors measured section descriptions and extensive depositional dip data collected along transects. Plotted for reference are regional backstepping events (in blue writing, after Playford et al. 2009), conodont zones (standard zonations by Ziegler and Sandberg 1990; Montagne Noire zonations by Klapper 1989), and global Late Devonian events representing considerable sedimentological and/or faunal changes within the marine realm (House 2002). The events associated with the deposition of organic-rich material are denoted by solid rectangles. Note that the outcrop does not extend into the upper Famennian; the upper limit occurs within the marginifera conodont zone.

Fig. 4.—

Example of platform-top sequence stratigraphy (third-order trends in WNB) projected into slope settings (SO section) based on magnetostratigraphic correlation (Eric Tohver, personal communication, 2015). Paleomagnetic chron names are after Hansma et al. (2015). Green arrows show general trends in δ13C values during transgressive systems tracts (blue triangles) and highstand systems tracts (red triangles), highlighting the observed link between carbon isotopes and sequence stratigraphy. Interpretation and age context for WNB were derived from a walkout correlation to the Classic Face section in Windjana Gorge (Playton et al. 2016). See Figure 2 for facies legend.

Fig. 4.—

Example of platform-top sequence stratigraphy (third-order trends in WNB) projected into slope settings (SO section) based on magnetostratigraphic correlation (Eric Tohver, personal communication, 2015). Paleomagnetic chron names are after Hansma et al. (2015). Green arrows show general trends in δ13C values during transgressive systems tracts (blue triangles) and highstand systems tracts (red triangles), highlighting the observed link between carbon isotopes and sequence stratigraphy. Interpretation and age context for WNB were derived from a walkout correlation to the Classic Face section in Windjana Gorge (Playton et al. 2016). See Figure 2 for facies legend.

Fig. 5.—

Comparison of carbon isotope trends from the Lennard Shelf with Upper Devonian δ13C profiles from Europe and North America (see figure for specific localities and references). Dashed lines show biostratigraphic age constraints and are based on available conodont data from each study. Dark gray bars highlight major positive excursions of similar age, and light gray bars represent possible correlations of minor isotopic trends. Standard conodont zonations are after Ziegler and Sandberg (1990); Montagne Noire zonations are after Klapper (1989). Vertical spacing of conodont biozones reflects relative duration (based on radiometric dates from Kaufmann, 2006). Interpreted global events, after House (2002), are again plotted for reference (see Fig. 3 caption for further details). Asterisk denotes partial section.

Fig. 5.—

Comparison of carbon isotope trends from the Lennard Shelf with Upper Devonian δ13C profiles from Europe and North America (see figure for specific localities and references). Dashed lines show biostratigraphic age constraints and are based on available conodont data from each study. Dark gray bars highlight major positive excursions of similar age, and light gray bars represent possible correlations of minor isotopic trends. Standard conodont zonations are after Ziegler and Sandberg (1990); Montagne Noire zonations are after Klapper (1989). Vertical spacing of conodont biozones reflects relative duration (based on radiometric dates from Kaufmann, 2006). Interpreted global events, after House (2002), are again plotted for reference (see Fig. 3 caption for further details). Asterisk denotes partial section.

Fig. 6.—

Idealized carbon isotope trends observed from Canning Basin sections. Positive excursions are related to short-term sea-level fluctuations (gray is long-term trend; black is composite trend) such that increasing δ13C values correspond to transgressive systems tracts (blue triangles) and decreasing δ13C values correspond to highstand systems tracts (red triangles). A) Positive excursions in the Frasnian are also coincident with global events, as described by House (2002). B) Frasnian third-order sequence stratigraphy described by Playford (2002) and revised by Playton (2008) and Playton et al. (2016), as well as the proposed sequence architecture of the Famennian based on isotopic trends (this study). See Figure 3 for conodont zone references. The δ13C values are reported in per mil (‰) relative to Vienna Peedee belemnite (VPDB).

Fig. 6.—

Idealized carbon isotope trends observed from Canning Basin sections. Positive excursions are related to short-term sea-level fluctuations (gray is long-term trend; black is composite trend) such that increasing δ13C values correspond to transgressive systems tracts (blue triangles) and decreasing δ13C values correspond to highstand systems tracts (red triangles). A) Positive excursions in the Frasnian are also coincident with global events, as described by House (2002). B) Frasnian third-order sequence stratigraphy described by Playford (2002) and revised by Playton (2008) and Playton et al. (2016), as well as the proposed sequence architecture of the Famennian based on isotopic trends (this study). See Figure 3 for conodont zone references. The δ13C values are reported in per mil (‰) relative to Vienna Peedee belemnite (VPDB).

Fig. 7.—

Conceptual model of the mechanistic links among carbon isotopes, sea level, and oceanographic conditions, as first proposed by Katz et al. (2007). A–D) Progression of isotopic values and the state of ocean stratification over the course of one third-order sea-level cycle. This model is conceptual and schematic; it does not reflect Lennard Shelf TST–HST stratal architecture.

Fig. 7.—

Conceptual model of the mechanistic links among carbon isotopes, sea level, and oceanographic conditions, as first proposed by Katz et al. (2007). A–D) Progression of isotopic values and the state of ocean stratification over the course of one third-order sea-level cycle. This model is conceptual and schematic; it does not reflect Lennard Shelf TST–HST stratal architecture.

Table 1.—

Data-set details concerning the six sections discussed in this paper. Table includes stratigraphic thickness, depositional environment (EOD), paleogeographic setting, total number of samples collected by the CBCP, and isotopic analyses presented for each section and core measured.

Section Thickness (m) EOD Paleogeographic setting Samples collected Isotopic analyses* 
SO (South Oscar transect) 584.4 Middle–upper slope Isolated, open marine 905 412 
VHS (Virgin Hills transect) 102 Lower–middle slope Land attached, broad embayment 312 255 
CL (Casey Falls transect) 419 Lower–upper slope Land attached, reef promontory 833 379 
MR1 (McWhae Ridge Winkie core) 42.1 Lower slope/basin Land attached, reef promontory 155 146 
WNA (Windjana Gorge transect A) 143 Platform interior–reef flat Land attached, narrow shelf 314 74 
WNB (Windjana Gorge transect B) 171.3 Platform interior Land attached, narrow shelf 368 164 
Section Thickness (m) EOD Paleogeographic setting Samples collected Isotopic analyses* 
SO (South Oscar transect) 584.4 Middle–upper slope Isolated, open marine 905 412 
VHS (Virgin Hills transect) 102 Lower–middle slope Land attached, broad embayment 312 255 
CL (Casey Falls transect) 419 Lower–upper slope Land attached, reef promontory 833 379 
MR1 (McWhae Ridge Winkie core) 42.1 Lower slope/basin Land attached, reef promontory 155 146 
WNA (Windjana Gorge transect A) 143 Platform interior–reef flat Land attached, narrow shelf 314 74 
WNB (Windjana Gorge transect B) 171.3 Platform interior Land attached, narrow shelf 368 164 
*

This number reflects isotopic values interpreted as primary marine and does not represent the total number of isotopic analyses completed for each section (for details, see Hillbun 2015).

Table 2.—

Carbon isotope data relating to the major and minor positive excursions discussed in this study for the Lennard Shelf. δ13C values are relative to VPDB.

  SO VHS CL MR1 
Major Excursions   
EX 1 
Amplitude N/A N/A N/A +3‰ 
Maximum value       +4.2‰ 
Biozone       Within zones 1–4 
EX 2 
Amplitude +2.1‰ +2‰ N/A +1.1‰ 
Maximum value +3.3‰ +3.7‰   +1.1‰ 
Biozone Within zones 5–10 Within zones 6–10   Undiagnostic 
EX 3 
Amplitude +3.4‰ +3.5‰ N/A +3.7‰ 
Maximum value +4.4‰ +4.7‰   +4.7‰ 
Biozone Within zones 12–13a Within zones 12–13a   Undiagnostic 
EX 4 
Amplitude +2.5‰ +3.2‰ +2.8‰ +2‰ 
Maximum value +3.9‰ +4.6‰ +3.5‰ +3.6‰ 
Biozone Zone 13b Within zones 13b–c Zone 13b, triangularis Undiagnostic 
EX 5 
Amplitude N/A N/A +2.8‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +4‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Minor Excursions  
Mnr 1 
Amplitude +1 ‰ +0.6‰ +1.7‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.6‰ +2.6‰ +2.5‰   
Biozone U. crepida–rhomboidea U. crepida–rhomboidea U. crepida–rhomboidea   
Mnr 2 
Amplitude +1.2‰ +0.8‰ +2.1‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.5‰ +2.7‰ +2.6‰   
Biozone rhomboidea rhomboidea rhomboidea   
Mnr 3 
Amplitude +1.4‰ N/A +1.6‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.9‰   +2.6‰   
Biozone marginifera   marginifera   
Mnr 4 
Amplitude N/A N/A +1.8‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +2.5‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Mnr 5 
Amplitude N/A N/A +2.2‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +2.5‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Mnr 6 
Amplitude N/A N/A +1.8‰   
Maximum value     +2.8‰   
Biozone     U. marginifera   
N/A = not applicable. 
  SO VHS CL MR1 
Major Excursions   
EX 1 
Amplitude N/A N/A N/A +3‰ 
Maximum value       +4.2‰ 
Biozone       Within zones 1–4 
EX 2 
Amplitude +2.1‰ +2‰ N/A +1.1‰ 
Maximum value +3.3‰ +3.7‰   +1.1‰ 
Biozone Within zones 5–10 Within zones 6–10   Undiagnostic 
EX 3 
Amplitude +3.4‰ +3.5‰ N/A +3.7‰ 
Maximum value +4.4‰ +4.7‰   +4.7‰ 
Biozone Within zones 12–13a Within zones 12–13a   Undiagnostic 
EX 4 
Amplitude +2.5‰ +3.2‰ +2.8‰ +2‰ 
Maximum value +3.9‰ +4.6‰ +3.5‰ +3.6‰ 
Biozone Zone 13b Within zones 13b–c Zone 13b, triangularis Undiagnostic 
EX 5 
Amplitude N/A N/A +2.8‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +4‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Minor Excursions  
Mnr 1 
Amplitude +1 ‰ +0.6‰ +1.7‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.6‰ +2.6‰ +2.5‰   
Biozone U. crepida–rhomboidea U. crepida–rhomboidea U. crepida–rhomboidea   
Mnr 2 
Amplitude +1.2‰ +0.8‰ +2.1‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.5‰ +2.7‰ +2.6‰   
Biozone rhomboidea rhomboidea rhomboidea   
Mnr 3 
Amplitude +1.4‰ N/A +1.6‰ N/A 
Maximum value +2.9‰   +2.6‰   
Biozone marginifera   marginifera   
Mnr 4 
Amplitude N/A N/A +1.8‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +2.5‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Mnr 5 
Amplitude N/A N/A +2.2‰ N/A 
Maximum value     +2.5‰   
Biozone     marginifera   
Mnr 6 
Amplitude N/A N/A +1.8‰   
Maximum value     +2.8‰   
Biozone     U. marginifera   
N/A = not applicable. 

Contents

Society for Sedimentary Geology

NEWADVANCES IN DEVONIAN CARBONATES: OUTCROP ANALOGS, RESERVOIRS AND CHRONOSTRATIGRAPHY

Society for Sedimentary Geology
Volume
107
ISBN electronic:
9781565763456
Publication date:
January 01, 2017

GeoRef

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