Abstract

Analysis of the Palaeocene Souris Lignite (northern Williston Basin) using coal petrology and palynology reveals the existence of seven different mire types forming six cycles of varying thickness and composition. The order of mire types within the individual cycles allows an idealized mire stype succession to be defined. The principle factor driving the idealized mire type succession is decreasing water depth within the peat-forming environment (terrestrialization), which leads to an increase in species diversity and a change in floral character from ferns→ angiosperms→ gymnosperms. Increases in water depth are the primary agent responsible for the termination of individual cycles in the ancestral Souris mire. Changes in nutrient status of the mire may also promote major changes in the floral assemblage, contributing to cycle termination. Comparison of densinite:ulminite ratios for the central part of the Souris seam shows an overall decrease in the degree of humification south-westward, indicating increased subsidence towards the Williston Basin centre, where seam partings are more common. Fern-rich mire types dominate throughout most of the sampled part of the Souris seam and such mires have been interpreted as representing transitional stages in both modern and Tertiary peat-forming environments. Previous analysis of other parts of the Souris seam has revealed areas dominated by Taxodium forest mires, representing more stable environments. The co-existence of transitional and stable environments suggests that the ancestral Souris mire may have been deposited during the onset of the closing stages of Palaeocene peat formation in the northern part of the Williston Basin.

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