ABSTRACT

A key challenge regarding development of carbonate platforms is predicting the temporal pattern of platform-margin progradation, aggradation, retrogradation, and drowning. Numerical forward models of carbonate sedimentation have been widely applied to this problem, shedding substantial light on the roles of sediment production, transport, tectonic subsidence, and eustasy on the evolution of carbonate platforms. However, forward models are typically complex and computationally expensive, preventing comprehensive exploration of parameter space. In addition, the interactions among parameters are often nonlinear, preventing the development of simple expressions relating the position of the platform margin to the governing parameters of the model. To complement the considerable insights derived from numerical forward models, this study presents analytical expressions for the temporal evolution of the position of platform margins using the simplest possible assumptions regarding sediment production and transport. These expressions provide useful null models, deviations from which can be used to identify the particular effects of biology or seawater chemistry on carbonate factories in influencing the development of these important sedimentary deposits. Application of the model to synthetic and outcrop examples demonstrates that these simple equations are useful for parameter estimation that can then be used to guide more detailed, process-based numerical forward models.

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