Abstract

Meter-scale shallowing-upward cycles are recorded in many carbonate successions around the world. It is often difficult to recognize whether they represent autocycles, formed through intrinsic controls, or allocycles, resulting from orbital forcing or tectonic movements, or both. Here, we review the criteria used in the identification of the two types of cyclicity and apply them to two newly described lower Pliensbachian outcrops in the Traras Mountains, northwestern Algeria. Throughout the investigation of six sections, the deposits are suggested to have formed in intertidal–supratidal to shallow subtidal environments on a tropical ramp in the Western Tethys. In this area, shallowing-upward small-scale peritidal and subtidal cycles have been shown to be, and are assumed to be, ordered. The carbon isotope data mirror the recorded cycles and indicate different lengths of subaerial exposures. These cycles, in a developed within synrift setting, have been interpreted as produced mainly by autocyclic processes, but interacting with allocyclic factors. Peritidal cycles are thought to be generated by progradation of intertidal and supratidal flats into lagoonal sediments, while subtidal cycles are interpreted to have been controlled by lateral migration of shoals. The impact of the minor fluctuations of eustatic sea level is weakly marked, and only long subaerial exposure can reveal the contribution of these fluctuations to the formation of the recorded cycles. Tectonic movements resulting from spreading of the Tethys are interpreted to have controlled cycle distribution and thickness at a regional scale. However, synsedimentary tectonic features are rare in the studied area; this suggests that sediment transport would control the thickness and duration of cycles instead of the rate at which accommodation was created.

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