Abstract

Extensive 2D and 3D seismic-reflection data calibrated by wells provide new insights into the lateral extent, morphology, internal architecture, and age of carbonate platforms in the subsurface of the Browse Basin, Australian Northwest Shelf (NWS). The oldest carbonate build-ups are interpreted as a giant bryozoan build-up complex of Oligocene age (34.03–27.8 Ma). In the late Burdigalian, tropical reef growth began, and numerous reef-rimmed carbonate platforms progressively coalesced into an extensive barrier reef. From the mid-Langhian to the early Tortonian, the Browse Basin contained an elongate (along-margin) barrier-reef system over 500 km long. This barrier reef possibly extended in the southwest into the Northern Carnarvon Basin. After the early Tortonian, reefs on top or landward of this major barrier-reef system were smaller and less connected. This significant reduction in area covered by reef-rimmed platforms likely resulted from cooling following the Mid-Miocene Climate Optimum and relatively high subsidence rates. The reef-rimmed carbonate platforms that formed between the late Burdigalian and the early Tortonian are very similar throughout the Browse Basin. Platform development after the early Tortonian was regionally diverse. High subsidence rates in the northern Browse Basin are interpreted to have promoted the development of thick, aggrading platforms. Lower subsidence in the south led to thinner, more widespread platforms, recurrently shifting location in response to eustatic change. The final phase of reef decline around 6 Ma coincides with an increase in current-driven drift sedimentation. Current-related winnowing of sediments from the lagoons and slopes of the remaining carbonate platforms likely contributed to their final drowning.

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