Bedding-parallel stylolites typically represent the product of chemical compaction (overburden weight-induced pressure solution) experienced by carbonate successions during their burial history, when bedding is still horizontal. Due to their common occurrence in carbonate rocks, with lateral extents that can exceed 1 km, bedding-parallel stylolites are of special interest for the hydrocarbon industry because they may affect the regional fluid flow in the subsurface. Aimed at assessing the development and distribution of bedding-parallel stylolites in shallow-water, platform limestone successions, field and laboratory studies were carried out on Cretaceous limestones originally pertaining to the Apulian Carbonate Platform realm and now exposed in three distinct Italian locations: Maiella Mountain, Gargano Promontory and Murge Plateau.
Results point to a prominent role played by the geological characteristics of limestones on development and localization of bedding-parallel stylolites within shallow-water, platform limestone successions. In particular, bedding-parallel lamination and fine rock grain size, co-occurring in stromatolitic limestones, determined there laterally more extensive and closely spaced stylolites than in the associated calcilutites and calcarenites. Large fenestral pores, which are ubiquitous in stromatolitic limestones, represent rock heterogeneities able to influence the roughness of individual stylolites.
Laboratory measurements revealed that the permeability of the studied Cretaceous limestones is very low (<10 μD). Pilot tests suggest that bedding-parallel stylolites in stromatolitic layers are not barrier to fluid flow but may represent pathways through low-permeability, platform limestone successions in the subsurface.