Flume experiments with fine-grained carbonate particles (< 62.5 µm) show that they form floccules that travel in bedload, form current ripples, and deposit laminated sediments. In order to compare our flume experiments to work on sand transport, we ran flume experiments with medium sand and observed that the velocities at which sand grains started to move and form ripples were in the same range as those where floccules move and form ripples. These ripples are in essence identical to those formed by clay-mineral floccules or sand grains under similar conditions. In light of previous experiments with clay minerals, these results indicate that, of the key controls on mud deposition, flocculation and suspended-sediment concentration are more important than particle mineralogy or water chemistry, and are about as important as bottom shear stress for deposition.
Suspensions of carbonate mud show the same pattern of flocculation, ripple formation, and bed accretion as observed previously in experiments with clay-mineral suspensions. The resulting carbonate mud deposits show internal low-angle (2–5 degrees) laminae, and in plan view a pattern of ripple foresets that is identical to rib-and-furrow structure in sandstones.
Just as previously assumed for terrigenous muds, there has been a long-standing notion that accumulation of abundant carbonate mud reflects quiescent conditions of offshore and deeper-water environments. These experiments demonstrate unequivocally that carbonate muds can also accumulate in energetic settings. In the sedimentary record of carbonate rocks, interbedded grainstones and lime mudstones may thus not necessarily reflect shifts in depositional energy (or water depth), but alternatively may imply a shift in supplied sediment type. The observations we report suggest that published interpretations of ancient lime muds and derived paleoceanographic conditions may need to be reevaluated.