This study provides the first quantitative carbonate production estimate of an ancient debris reef, represented by the Upper Jurassic reef complex of the central Apennines. The components of carbonate production (Pnet, Psed, and Pgross) have been defined entirely on the basis of outcrop data. The reef volume (Pnet) was reconstructed based on the present distribution of the Upper Jurassic reef complex and its relationship with coeval successions of platform and slope. The volume of sediment exported along the slope (Psed) was obtained through the reconstruction of the thickness reduction pattern of the reef-derived sediments, at increasing distances from the platform margin. Several variables have been introduced to overcome the lack of data in some areas.
The estimates obtained indicate that the Upper Jurassic reef complex produced a total amount of calcium carbonate equal to 1.7–2.3 times the amount of material retained in the reef complex. This excess volume of sediment produced was redistributed along the slope-basin system, up to a distance of ∼55 km from the platform margin. According to the indices commonly used for quantifying carbonate production, the Upper Jurassic reef shows values that are consistently lower than other ancient and Holocene reef systems. The interaction between the sedimentologic characteristics of the reef structure and the hydrodynamic processes is ultimately seen as the main mechanism responsible for the low growth potential and reduced export of reef material. The methodology and the procedure used were designed specifically for the site being studied but could potentially be adapted for use in other regions where the data required are difficult to access.