Detailed analysis of fine-grained clastic deposits associated with the macrotidal estuarine mouth of the Shepody River, New Brunswick, Canada, concentrated on identifying the ichnological and sedimentological characteristics of tidally dominated point bars and their adjacent tidal flats. The aim of the study was to establish an ichnological facies model for similar deposits.
Within the study area, the distribution of ichnological structures and sedimentary characteristics such as grain-size distribution and total organic content are associated with bar elevation (i.e., upper, middle, or lower intertidal), tidal-bank slope, and the local hydraulic processes. The distribution of animal traces is also influenced by the duration of intertidal exposure and sedimentation rates. Polykladichnus- and Skolithos-like traces characterize upper-subtidal and lower-intertidal zones of the point bars; Arenicolites-, Diplocraterion-, Polykladichnus-, Palaeophycus-, and Planolites-like forms are pervasive in middle-intertidal zones; and, Siphonichnus- and Polykladichnus-like burrows typify the upper-intertidal point bars and the tidal flats. The size and diversity of the burrowing fauna are affected by the chemistry of the depositional waters and by seasonal variations in composition and temperature of those waters. The extreme seasonality of the area favors opportunistic fauna and thereby contributes to an impoverished, brackish-water trace assemblage.
Geomorphologically, the area is dominated by point-bar and tidal-flat deposits, which comprise rhythmic bedding, composed of interlaminated to thinly interbedded silty and sandy mud. Point-bar bedding dips channelwards and represents mud-dominated inclined heterolithic stratification (IHS). The IHS alternates between burrowed and laminated beds. Laminated beds contain rhythmic lamination. Cyclic variations in laminae thickness are attributed to neap–spring variation in tidal-current strength. The burrowed interbeds exhibit high degrees of bioturbation that eradicate the preexisting lamination. The intercalation of laminated and burrowed beds represent seasonal variations in the depositional system: laminated beds characterize early winter and early spring sedimentation, and the bioturbated beds represent late spring through fall deposits.