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Chapter 1

Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts-Responses of Carbonate Platforms to Relative Sea-Level Changes
C. Robertson Handford

Robert G. Loucks
ARea Exploration and Production Technology
Plano, Texas, U.S.A.


Standard carbonate facies models are widely used to interpret paleoenvironments, but they do not address how carbonate platforms are affected by relative changes in sea level. An understanding of how the subtidal carbonate "factory" responds to relative sea-level changes and the role played by other environmental factors towards influencing the formation of carbonate platforms allows one to differentiate platform types and it helps establish a basis for constructing depositional sequence and systems tract models. The combination of in-situ production of carbonate sediment, which is also subject to transport, and local variations in depositional processes result in the formation of a wide variety of stratal patterns, some of which are unique to carbonate systems. Fundamental carbonate-depositional principles and geologic-based observations were used to construct depositional sequence and systems tract models for a variety of rimmed shelves and ramps. The models show how, for example, depositional sequences made up of (1) carbonate, (2) carbonate-siliciclastic, or (3) carbonate-evaporite-siliciclastic facies are produced by depositional systems responding to lowstand, transgressive, and highstand conditions. Lowstand: Carbonate sediment production is reduced on rimmed shelves because a relatively small area of shallow seafloor is in contact with the carbonate "factory." Reduced sedimentation and subaerial exposure foster the retreat of shelf edges and slopes by erosion and slope failure during lowstands. As a result, thick debris-flow deposits may form. Karst development is important in humid climates and can affect large areas of a subaerially exposed platform. If siliciclastic sediments are available, they are delivered to the shelf edge and slope by fluvial-deltaic systems or, in arid climates, by wadis and advancing ergs. Under arid conditions, lowstand evaporites may fill an isolated or completely silled basin. Transgression: Carbonate sedimentation initiates in restricted environments and later as more open conditions develop, open marine facies, including patch reefs, may locally develop atop flooded platforms and ramps. Retrogradational



and Loucks

parasequences comprising shallow-water carbonates form and subsequently drown, and shelf edges tend to aggrade, backstep, and drown if the rate of sea-level rise is high. Highstand: Seaward-prograding carbonate or siliciclastic coastal sediments and landward-prograding carbonate rimmed shelf edges may partially fill inner to outer shelf seas. Under arid conditions, evaporites and red beds commonly fill wide and shallow salinas. These strata onlap subaerially exposed rimmed shelf edges and prograding grainstone islands in ramps. Shelf edges and shorelines tend to prograde under the influence of high rates of carbonate sedimentation across the shelf and shelf edge. Slope and basinal environments receive excess shelf- and shelfedge-derived sediment. Factors listed above must be integrated with established facies models in order to arrive at comprehensive sequence and systems tract models. As should be the case with all models, however, they are not meant to serve as rigid templates within which all carbonate sequences must fit. Modification may be needed to accommodate each case. Once they are deemed applicable to a specific case, they function as working hypotheses to help geologists visualize how and why carbonate strata were laid down and fit together as they do. As a general predictor of facies, carbonate depositional sequence and systems tracts models may be used in conjunction with seismic records to identify depositional systems and to locate reservoir-, seal-, and sourceprone facies.

Over the past several decades, carbonate facies models of ramps (Ahr, 1973; Read, 1985), shelves (Wilson, 1975;Read, 1985),and craton settings (Irwin, 1965; Shaw, 1964) have been routinely used for describing and interpreting lateral facies relationships in ancient carbonate platforms (Figure 1). They offer a static representation of a carbonate platform by depicting an idealized distribution pattern of facies and paleoenvironments, usually during an instant of time and in the absence of relative sea-level changes. As pointed out by Irwin (1965), "Nature is never static. In the geologic past, epeiric seas transgressed and regressed over the continents during numerous periods." Environments migrate accordingly, but predicting the occurrence of a facies poses a difficult challenge to the explorationist and stratigrapher. During the history of a carbonate platform, paleoenvironments behave like "moving targets." They appear, migrate, disappear, and reappear to a large extent in response to depositional and erosional processes associated with marine transgressions and regressions imposed by relative changes in sea level. Thus, the predictive capacity of the facies models listed above is limited by their static view of time and relative sea-level changes.

Sequence stratigraphy integrates time and relative sea-level changes to track the migration of facies. Rooted mainly in seismic sequence analysis, the strength of sequence stratigraphy lies in its potential to predict facies within a chronostratigraphically constrained framework of unconformity-bound depositional sequences (Haq et al., 1987; Posamentier and Vail, 1988; Vail et al., 1977; Vail, 1987; Van Wagoner et al., 1990). Using the methodology developed for seismic sequence stratigraphy by Vail et al. (1977), interpreters analyze seismic reflections to describe stratal geometry and delineate the systematic patterns of lap-out and truncation of strata against chronostratigraphically constrained surfaces. In this manner, they establish the presence of unconformity-bound depositional sequences, deduce relative sea-level changes, and describe the depositional and erosional history of an area. The methodology and practice of seismic sequence analysis led to the development of the Exxon sequence stratigraphic model and accompanying systems tract diagrams (Haq et al., 1987; Posamentier and Vail, 1988; Vail, 1987). This model summarizes the expected stratal patterns and geometries of siliciclastic depositional sequences that form in passivemargin depositional basins and in response to relative sea-level changes (Figure 2).

Carbonate Depositional

Sequences and Systems Tracts


RAMP - AHR (1973) & READ (1985)

F··~~E_~ ------.;;..-~








EPEIRIC SHELF - IRWIN (1965) & SHAW (1964)
... ~~_--=U:;_P....:T..:::O...;.H;.::;UNORE==OS:....:.O:....F M:.:;,I;::LE::::S,-__ ___.. JENS OF MILEi. HUNDREDS OF MILES










Figure 1. Standard facies models of ramps, rimmed shelves, and epeiric seas are static representations of carbonate platforms.

Sequence stratigraphy is now considered to be a practical methodology for analyzing the development and history of carbonate platforms (Eberli and Ginsburg, 1989; Handford and Loucks, 1990, 1991; Hardie et al., 1991;Hunt and Tucker, 1991;Jacquin et a1., 1991;Rudolph and Lehmann, 1989; Sarg, 1988). Much of the existing work utilized or adapted the Exxon model of siliciclastic depositional sequence stratigraphy to help explain the evolution of carbonate depositional sequences. However, this siliciclasticbased model operates upon a different set of principles than those guiding carbonate deposition. The Exxon model assumes all sediment is extrabasinal in origin and is delivered to a marine basin largely by fluvial and deltaic systems which drain areas lying landward and updip of the basin (see figure 3 of

Vail, 1987). No such assumption, however, can be made for carbonate depositional sequences because carbonate sediments are not delivered to a basin, but rather are produced in the marine basin by organic and inorganic processes Games, 1979).This results in the unique ability of carbonate sediments to construct depositional topography and morphologically diverse platforms, such as rimmed shelves, isolated or detached platforms, and ramps. Siliciclastic systems can construct sequences with distinct shelf breaks but they lack rimmed margins. In addition, siliciclastic slope angles are generally lower than those of carbonates (Schlager and Camber, 1986). Pronounced depositional topography, due to organic buildups, is a hallmark of many carbonate sequences, and it alone guarantees a dissimilarity between car-

or low-angle rimmed shelves (Sarg. Schlager. Vail. tectonic subsidence. Posamentier and Vail. SB2 = type 2 sequence boundary. or size and geometry.and current-transport and deposition. it is only within platforms dominated by clastic carbonate sedimentation. the strong environmental controls over carbonate sedimentation (Davies et al. LSF = lowstand fan systems tract. bonate and siliciclastic stratal geometries. Vail. 1988. Where carbonate and siliciclastic sequences do share similar geometries. 1991. tJ) III ::::) SHALLOW o en w o z DEEP w 1 w c Figure 2. 1991). The interaction of these and other factors are viewed as an infrastructure that describes the physical nature of carbonate platforms (Table 1). and climate (Sarg. and 2. existing carbonate facies models. lee = leveed channel complex. TS = transgressive surface. 1987) and variations in gross morphology. and the methodology of sequence stratigraphic analysis to: 1. LSW = lowstand wedge systems tract. such as ramps.[ervey. 1988. Systems Tracts: HST = highstand systems tract. 1989. their interaction produces many of the variations in stratal patterns and facies in depositional sequences (Haq et al. 1987) to the interpretation of carbonate platform stratigraphy and relative sea-level history. the important differences between carbonates and siliciclastics mandate the development of separate carbonate sequence and systems tract models. and utilized principles of carbonate sedimentation. Hopley. TST = transgressive systems tract. The first three controls interact to regulate relative sea level. 1987). 1988. we have drawn upon geologic and geophysical data of modern and ancient carbonate systems. 1987. Vail. Owing to the polygenetic origin of carbonate sediments. 1987. Abbreviations are as follows. Sarg. This is because clastic carbonate and siliciclastic sediments respond similarly to wave. As a means of contributing to that evaluation.. Surfaces: SBl = type 1 sequence boundary. Kendall and Schlager. develop depositional sequence and systems tract models for various types of rimmed shelves and ramps. Climate mainly governs sediment type.. identify carbonate stratal patterns. 1975). (1987)and Vail (1987)was generally developed from studies of siliciclastic sequences. we question the universal application of the siliciclasticbased Exxon depositional sequence model (Haq et al. 1989). and the diverse ways that carbonates respond to relative changes in sea level. 1988). Sequence stratigraphic analysis is an evolving discipline whose underlying assumptions require a critical evaluation (Schlager. of carbonate platforms (Bosellini. The depositional sequence model of Haq et a1.(1987)and Vail (1987). We have used them to characterize some modern and ancient platforms (Table 2) and as a first step in performing . Assessing these factors can lead to a more thorough understanding of carbonate platforms and their evolution. INFRASTRUCTURE OF CARBONATE PLATFORMS Carbonate platforms are similar to siliciclastic shelves to the extent that they are constructed and modified by depositional and erosional processes acting under the controls exerted by eustasy.. 1988. 1981. Although the fundamental aspects of the Exxon siliciclastic sequence model are reasonably applicable to many carbonate sequences.6 Handford and Loucks T l: ~ a.. which differentiate them from siliciclastic stratal patterns. Together. SMST = shelf-margin systems tract. all of which differ from siliciclastics. Modified from Haq et a1. 1982. mfs = maximum flooding surface. sedimentation rate. Wilson.

salinity.Z Acaetionary I I Currents Bypass I Storms T I Erosional UpweUing Grain Shoal WDlwIld Leeward Offshore Shelf Shelf-Edae Slope and Basin Floor Systems Coastal8t Nearshore Lithology CarbonaJe CIITOOnAte/Siliciclilstic ClITbcnaLe/Evaporile Carbonale/EvaporirejSiJ iciclastic sequence stratigraphic analysis. Formation of modern ooids is further constrained by physical energy and salinity. clear marine seas down to a depth of about 100 m but with the bulk of production occurring within the upper 10 m (Wilson./ TeetoBle Setting Lowstand Thermal Cooling Transgression Crustal Thinning Highstand Stillstand Crustal Loading Plate Margin Intraplate Continmu. Peloids) Detached Solitary Nonphototrophic (Foramal) Organisms Plus Coralline RcdAlgae E-c . PC02. are also produced almost exclusively in warm seas. 1972. 1975. and echinoderms. The factory exists as a shroud encompassing the surface waters of tropical. water depth.:J . The tropical marine factory operates in warm shallow seas between 0-30° north and south latitude. The sediment producers are chiefly phototrophic. or chlorozoan and chloralgal. and nonphototrophic organisms.Z ~ ~ Ctlrbonat." Orientation of Margin Depositional I Coalesced Flat-Topped Shelf .l Humid Tropical Semiarid Arid Temperate-Polar (Mid-High Latitude) Nonbiogenic Produc. a vigorous carbonate factory can result. 1975).Where these fall within the range conducive to the production of biogenic and nonbiogenic carbonate sediment and interact properly.:J E-c U Hornoclinal I Rimmed Shelf Narrow «10 km) Open Wide (J 10 km) Restricted en -< =: ~ ~ Tides I Reef WfroIeJ . The former includes hermatypic corals and calcareous red and green algae and the latter consists mainly of foraminifers. Ooids tend to form only in shallow . Nonskeletal grains. minimum and maximum annual-water temperatures cannot fall below 15'C and 26"C. The ability of the carbonate factory to generate carbonate sediment hinges on the interaction of latitude. 1986. For healthy development of corals and calcareous green algae. Factory (Low Latitude) Biogenic Production by Phototrophic (ChlorozoanChlolalgal) OrglDisms Anachcd Ramp Didally Sl!epened Biogenic Production by NonphotoltOphic (Poramol) Organisms & Red Algae riIil ~ ~ .Wilson. Lees. Eustesy Subsi/J. derived from disintegration of calcareous algae and direct precipitation. The following summarizes many of these factors. organisms. 1972). Carbonate Factory Sedimentation rates across carbonate platforms are largely dependent on the productivity of the marinesubtidal carbonate factory. bryozoans. mollusks. turbidity. or ooids and peloids. 1974. and nutrient supply (Hallock and Schlager. sunlight intensity. Milliman. respectively (Lees and Buller. Lees and Buller.l (craton) I Ocemic Passive Mlrgin COftllergenl Margin I Transfonn Matgin Climate tr.ne. and carbonate mud. 1975). water circulation.Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 7 Table 1.J == ~ ~ -< Contine ntal Linkage Morphology Width Circulation Type of Marg. Carbonate platform infrastructure. temperature.tion (Ooids.

"0 <1. .'"' .. f-< o .l:l III u ..!l 'J:l = e .. v t: '"' ~ !'II -€ i .......~ u ~ o Z ::: to ......." o~ . e..." o~ . f-< os. !'II <1.9 ~ til ... I=: = ... .... ..1 .8 Handford and Loucks .. <IJ <1.1 <IJ ~ ] c .~ -. "0 !'II <IJ . os. t o 'E c. ." o~ o ::c :r: :r: o ~ v e ..... !'II e .. u -.... u 2 o . .1 J.

'iii u f-< . ".~ o ._.~ 'iii u f-< .Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 9 ". ::s .

If there were no offbank loss of algal sediments in Little Bahama Bank. 3. Calcite mud is accumulating in Bass Basin. Wilson. 1971. Subsequently. Measured low accumulation rates on platform tops can be offset by high rates of progradation. James and Bone. which translates to an accumulation rate of 192 cm kyr. 1981). bryozoans. 1975). 1988).8% (Lees. southeastern Australia at a rate of <12 cm kyr (Blom and Alsop. it is due mainly to mechanical abrasion and bioerosion of skeletal grains and the accumulation of coccoliths (Blom and Alsop. Wilson (1975) and Schlager (1981) graphed profiles of total carbonate productivity versus depth. Locally high accumulation rates of carbonate sediment are possible in temperate platforms. minor hiatuses. mollusks. accumulation rates would be 1. the threshold of abundant biogenic carbonate sediment production lies at depths less than 10-15 m. Climate Climate. Much lower accu- mulation rates characterize muddy platforminterior settings. 1975). the carbonate factory produces skeletal grains from calcareous red algae. Based upon estimates of biogenic carbonate productivity rates. James and MacIntyre. 6.-100-2000 ern kyr at <5 m water depth to 50-200 em kyr in depths of 10-20 m (Schlager. Thus. and where salinity exceeds 35. With an average thickness of 0. Carbonate sediment accumulation rates average 2. precipitation. 1975). Locally high accumulation rates are documented from mud banks in coastal lagoons of Yucatan. 5. Though the differences are impressive. excess sediment is shed to adjacent slopes. agitated waters where daily wave and current activity is high (Bathurst. echinoderms. 1991. and barnacles (also known as the foramol assemblage). and wind. and consequently light intensity. which is a measure of air temperature. 4. Reef accumulation rates decrease with water depth. They clearly showed the influence of water depth. 1960). Furthermore. Rates reach 100 em kyr (Gostin et al. Schofield et a1. 2. schematically shows how productivity and accumulation rates can vary across tropical carbonate platforms (Figure 3).65 m. accumulated at 390 ern kyr from 7000-4000 yr ago when the rate of sealevel rise was high. Brady (1971) recorded 11. 9.. net accumulation rate is 36 em kyr. In tropical seas. 7. reef growth dropped to 60-70 cm kyr for the last 3000-4000 yr when the rate of rise slowed markedly. Highstand shedding of carbonate mud has led to accumulation rates of 200-270 cm kyr in water depths of 245-300 m on the flanks of Pedro Bank and Great Bahama Bank (Glaser and Droxler. In temperate and polar seas.5 m of muddy sediment in Nichupte Lagoon. 1988). and long-term stillstands (Sarg. 1973. 1. Newell et al. Where mud is produced. 1981. there are significant variations between environments. Lacking calcareous green algae. 1985. relatively low accumulation rates do not always reflect low productivity and low growth potential.. they do not take into account that Holocene rates are spot or local values whereas ancient rates record the entire platform. Loreau and Purser. helps . As a result. Another view. over carbonate sediment production. Schlager. 1981). Holocene carbonate accumulation rates can match or exceed glacio-eustatic Holocene rise of sea level (30-700 cm kyr) (Schlager. The long-term accumulation rates of ancient carbonate platforms (<1-50 ern kyr) are much less than Holocene rates (up to 1500 cm kyr). While the average growth potential for reefbearing carbonate platforms is 100 cm kyr. Platforms often produce more sediment than can be accommodated by their tops. which can result in progradation. temperate seas produce relatively minor amounts of carbonate mud. 8. ancient rates do not take into account burial compaction.5 cm kyr in temperate seas and the normal range is 1-20 cm kyr (James and Bone. Shallow reef margins can accumulate at rates of 2000 cm kyr while ooid-sand margins have accumulation rates of -50-200 cm kyr (Schlager. atmospheric humidity.5 times the present net accumulation rate (Neumann and Land. and nonphototrophic organisms such as foraminifers. (1983) recognized a similar pattern at Elizabeth Reef in the Tasman Sea. 1975).10 Handford and Loucks «2 m). The following is summarized from prior work (Glaser and Drexler. 1991. 1988). Very little or no sediment is transported off the platform in Yucatan because the coastal lagoons are protected from open seas. Where sediment thickness reaches 2 m. Panama. Extensive seagrass banks in the protected central gulfs of the south Australian continental shelf provide a habitat for organisms that accumulate as skeletal sand. Sarg. which is equal to the average platform growth potential calculated by Schlager (1981). a Holocene succession of carbonate mud has accumulated in the interior of Little Bahama Bank at an average net rate of 12 cm kyr (Neumann and Land. 1988). which complements their illustrations. 1991). High Holocene accumulation rates reflect the large amount of accommodation space available during the last rapid rise in sea level MacIntyre (1983) determined that Galeta Reef. 1991). 1988. 1981). Sediment production and accumulation rates are greater in tropical platforms than temperate settings.

Rate of subsidence depends on the type of crust that is subsiding (oceanic or continental). the basement geometry of the subsiding basin. These graphic scales schematically show productivity and accumulation variations across an idealized platform. In addition. water temperature.. Continental Linkage Platforms may be isolated (detached) from or they may be linked (attached) to a large landmass. L L P I I 1-1 I ~IIII L S-PRODUCTION RATE A-AGGRADATION RATE P-PROGRADA TlON I ~I i.c~ L I Figure 3. but oftentimes.""'1 SLOPE ~ BAS" 10TIll PflODUCTION . stability.. crustal thinning.'" "" FLAT ~m" DUNEISLAND GRAIN SHOAL REEF s. sediment loading may enhance tectonically driven subsidence. the location. and loading (Allen and Allen. Subsidence. Humid climates favor fluvial-deltaic deposition of siliciclastic sediments. elevation. but accumulation rates can be high there. long-term deposition.and wadi-deposited sandstones in the Guadalupian carbonate-platform succession of New Mexico (Mazzullo et al. the type of stress causing the subsidence. differences in climate will affect the style of siliciclastic sediment delivery. as well as within plates made up of either oceanic or continental crust..~ s ~IIII ~II AL. Subsidence and Tectonic Setting Without subsidence. and arid climates foster eolian siliciclastic deposition. 1987). and phase changes (gabbro to eclogite) in the lower crust or mantle.. the presence of thin eolian. 1990). cooling.. Climate helps determine the types of sediments. If terrigenous sediment sources lie adjacent to a carbonate platform. such as . or tectonic setting. Shoreface and eolian sandstones. which disconformably overlie dissected karst and peritidal carbonates in the Middle Ordovician succession in north Arkansas. Shallow tropicalmarine waters have a higher degree of CaC03 supersaturation than the temperate seas of the mid-latitudes. or all. creep of ductile lower crust towards the new oceans. and 4. Arrows show sediment flux. the nature of the carbonate factory (tropical or temperate) and the types of carbonate sediments produced. Tectonic setting helps to establish the following: l. The chance of preservation is improved by intraplate and passive margin settings. This difference affects the production. hence. L I H ~IIII I L I ~II"I f c. and early lithification potential of carbonate sediments (Scoffin.Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 11 '"' ' ' I Stdlmenl Flux ~ATCH~ REEF . the extent and style of marine influence. 1991) imply relative lowstand conditions. lithospheric rheology.. and preservation of carbonate sediments will not take place. besides carbonates. with eustasy. determine water conditions (salinity. 2. of the detrital sediments contributed to the overall basin fill. or net general direction of sediment movement. Note that supratidal environments produce little or no sediment. and transform plate margins. 3. its age.' -. evaporite deposition may occur. in creating the space available for marine sedimentation to take place (Jervey. which takes place by thermal cooling. Total CaC03 production after Schlager (1981)and Wilson (1975). Subsidence may be driven by lithospheric thinning. and areal extent of surrounding terrain that may provide part. Shallow marine carbonate platforms form near and along convergent. The presence of these types of sediments in a carbonate-dominated stratigraphic succession is a clue not only to climatic conditions. accumulation. For example. 1988). Carbonate sediment productivity and accumulation (aggradation and progradation) vary with depth and depositional setting. are directly linked to lowstand conditions. Under arid conditions and restricted circulation. they signal relative sea-level changes. plays a major role.-::. and position within a lithospheric plate. the initial geometry of shallow-marine carbonate sedimentation sites.. and circulation) and.. that will be deposited within a depositional sequence. divergent.

Thus... flat-topped shelves that have a sharp break in slope along their seaward margins. patch reefs. and grow vertically (Eberli and Ginsburg. which is responsible for delivering clear open-marine water to carbonate platforms is either dominated or strongly influenced by wave.F=~D~ET~AC~HE~D "'--~ =~ __ Figure 4. Some detached platforms are solitary throughout their entire existence. they may coalesce into one larger platform. continuity. Chief among carbonate-platform depositional systems are the following: Coastal and nearshore systems • Beaches. sediment bypass. and specifically a relative rise of sea level. they occur in tropical and temperate seas. 1989. Width and Circulation Carbonate platforms have highly variable widths. Morphology Platforms can assume three different morphologic profiles (Figure 4): (1) ramps have gentle homoclinal or distally steepened slopes. Attached platforms are commonly long.-- _=:. with a small connection to open ocean where tidal waves originate. morphology. windward margins tend to be erosional. Read. they help control circulation of seawater within a platform. rimmed shelves. Depending on their length. or mixtures of the two. which require warm-water conditions. and sabkhas • Evaporite salinas Offshore shelf systems • Pinnacle reefs. in concert with nutrient levels. Large detached. Circulation.:::IM:::_:M:::ED SHELF '= ~~ 7-- DETACHED -". or isolated. and unrimmed.12 Handford and Loucks a continent or large island. tidal range is minimal along narrow shelves or in restricted seas such as the Persian Gulf or Red Sea. are dependent on the size. govern the nature of carbonate sedimentation from the shallow shelf edge. They may also form in oceanic plates by nucleating above hot spots around volcanoes and seamounts. and orientation of margin. flat-topped shelves (attached and detached).Hine et al. reefs. 1979) and it decreases in restricted seas. Rimmed shelves form exclusively in tropical seas because they are made up chiefly of reef-building chlorozoan and chloralgal organisms. Relative influence and the interactions between tide-. 1989). and sand shoals _ ==ATI::::t>i. and lagoons associated with mainland shorelines and barrier islands • Fringing reefs • Tidal flats. tidal amplitude increases with shelf width over most of the world's continental shelves (Cram.and wind-driven currents in shallow shelves (Johnson. linear features that face open seas. carbonate platforms develop on horst blocks along newly rifted continental margins and failed rifts.In general.. but where several lie close to one another. but in fact are simply drowned ramps.__. 1978). rimmed shelves (attached and detached). and sediment type. Morphologic profiles of carbonate platforms include ramps (homoclinal and distally steepened). and (3) unrimmed.~TO~PPE. channels. wind-.. or bypass. and into the supratidal environments of a carbonate platform. Tides and waves. Shelf margins typically consist of grain shoals.~D-=S:. ranging from a few to >100 km. Continuous or nearly continuous rims hamper circulation and exchange of open seawater with shelves. (2) rimmed shelves. its orientation relative to the wind. . 1981a. 1990).. Unrimmed shelves are present in both tropical and temperate seas. as in the case of the Great Bahama Bank (Eberli and Ginsburg. Depositional Systems and Lithology Carbonate platforms comprise a myriad of depositional systems. across the shelf. coastal dunes. tidal deltas. 1985). Type of Margin and Orientation Other factors controlling carbonate platform development are type of margin. 1979..ATI=AC2HE:=D==~F""lA"_T. such as climate. tidal inlets. or flat-topped shelves. circulation. Seaward slopes of shelf edges are marked by depositional accretion. thus. offbank transport and deposition of platform sediments have led to significant progradation of the leeward margins of modern and ancient platforms comprising the Great Bahama Bank.=H:::ED:::::::o--. or erosion (McIlreath and James. and depth over their crests. An arbitrary width of 10 km was chosen to differentiate between narrow (dO km) and wide (>10 km) platforms. Wilber et al. Bahamian workers (Eberli and Ginsburg. However. which are among the most important physical processes. mud banks. 1989). shape.::l::. they are not morphologically distinct from those listed above. Drowned platforms are often recognized as a separate type of platform (Read. all of which are constrained by factors listed above. width. they record a phase of development.R-. usually along passive continental margins.b. Thus. However. Rimmed shelves with deep or less continuous rims and rimless flat-topped shelves are characterized by cross-bank circulation. Tucker and Wright. 1985. and bathymetry of the marine basin (Elliott. 1986). and wave-driven currents. Ramps comprise mainly clastic carbonate grains and mud and. 1990) have pointed out that downwind.::HE::.

The deposition of evaporites requires a more selective coincidence of specific eustatic. if preserved. on clastic-dominated shelves. storm-dominated shelves • Evaporite salinas (once open marine but subsequently isolated to become evaporitic) Shelf-edge systems • Reefs • Grain shoals such as tidal-bar belts and marine sand belts • Tidal channels and deltas • Islands and eolian dunes Slope and basin-floor systems • Translational and rotational slides • Channelized and nonchannelized sediment gravity-flow deposits • Toe-of-slope aprons • Submarine fans • Submarine canyons and gullies • Pelagic and hemipelagic basin-floors Appraisal of the lithologic makeup of a platform is critically important to performing sequence stratigraphic analysis. such as cone and tower karst. Although some platforms are made up almost entirely of carbonate sediments. 1977). geochemical. Platforms are mostly lithologically mixed. Sarg. and evaporite sediments. Another a~proach is to compare and contrast stratal geometries of these two rock types. In cross section. However. and eustatic processes. may also be present and. thin but widespread siliciclastic strata. In such basins. 1989). The tendency of carbonate sedimentation to create depositional topography and for solutional erosion of carbonates to create karst topography enhances the possibility for seismic stratigraphic differentiation and interpretation. frequency. Carbonate and siliciclastic strata possess the same concordant and discordant stratal relationships to sequence boundaries. blind valleys and poljes are commonly linear. which form in response to deposition and erosion. 1988. tectonic. the task may be approached from a geophysical stance ~hrough an a~alysis of amplitude. especially attached platforms. Tucker. 2. and climatic conditions than carbonate deposition. Karst-related dissolution or collapse leads to the formation of closed topographic depressions ranging from a few meters to kilometers in width. (2) transported and deposited as clastic particles with a wide array of textures. and mterval velocity (Bubb and Hatlelid. 1. downlap. In frontier basins lacking well control. and transgressive marine deposits. however. often signify a relative drop or stillstand of sea level and they overlie sequence boundaries. karst depressions often have circular to oval outlines. depositional and erosional topography may be too subtle for seismic resolution. A widespread (thousands of km-) evaporite unit located behind a shelf-margin rim would suggest a minor relative lowstand during an overall highstand of sea level. Such views would be necessary to distinguish them from fluvially incised valleys. In contrast. and poljes. however. the emergence of a barrier is probably due to depositional processes. shallow to deep. the evaporite deposit is present only locally. hummocky and lenticular reef mounds and reefs in shelf settings that downlap at their bases and are onlapped at their margins. Evaporites comprise a major part of many carbonate platforms. but closed at both ends. If. These include dolines or sinkholes. depositional. Onlapping depression-fill strata consist of lowstand lacustrine and fluvial deposits. carbonate and siliciclastic strata terminate by lap-out (onlap. geologists and geophysicists are confronted with the task of interpreting lithology solely from seismic records. W~despread deposition of bedded subaqueous evapontes across a platform probably requires that the depositional site be almost completely isolated from open sea by some barrier (Lucia. Some karst areas lack depressions and residual hills. commonly results in peculiar to unique stratal-pattern associations. however. and (3) to erode subaerially.Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 13 Open. or perhaps to local tectonic processes. 1989). In many cases. most comprise varying amounts of carbonate. terra rossa. but their role in the sequence stratigraphic evolution of carbonate platforms has only recently been addressed (Goldhammer et al. 3. 1972). would be onlapped by lowstand and transgressive deposits. karst strata are truncated at the margins of solution depressions. Residual hills. In plan view. blind valleys. the capacity of carbonate sediments to be (1) generated and accumulate in situ as buildups. • STRATAL GEOMETRY VARIATIONS In most sedimentary basins. which interrupt platform carbonates. The lithologic variation expressed by modern and ancient platforms directly records the depositional history and is one important indicator of how a platform responds to relative sea-level changes. These include the following. siliciclastic. 1991. Leeward margins of rimmed shelf edges may prograde in a shelfward direction. Such a lack of topography often implies long-term denudation by solution corrosion plains (Ford and Williams. Where stratal discordance is recognized at sequence boundaries. which are keyed to circled numbers in Figure 5. carbonate strata may signify transgressive conditions (Brown. and toplap) and truncation (erosional and structural). For example. such as the aggradation of storm deposits above sea level. 1991). Construction of steep-sided.. The emergence of a barrier can be due to tectonic. seismically derived descriptions of stratal geometry can be integrated with available well control to distinguish between carbonate and siliciclastic strata. chiefly by dissolution. and construct clinoforms that downlap lagoonal or .

As coarse-grained sedimentation diminished and the formation of downlapping clinoforms ceased. Loucks and Brown. Carbonate toe-of-slope deposits may show downlap (6). Refer to text for discussion. Flat-lying shelf strata may also onlap leeward-margin clinoforms. James and Ginsburg. (2) shelf mounds that downlap at their bases and are onlapped/downlapped at their margins. alternating onlap and downlap. 1992. CARBONATE PLATFORM RESPONSES TO RELATIVE CHANGES IN SEA LEVEL Depositional sequence and systems tract models were constructed for tropical rimmed shelves and ramps (Figures 6-11) based on geologic and geophysical data. early cementation. Depositional foreslope angles off carbonate platforms generally range up to 29-30' (Schlager and Camber. Some carbonate sequences consist of steeply dipping.to boulder-size sediment that was episodically deposited. interlocking skeletal grains. (9) incisement of shelf edges at sequence boundaries or within sequences (10). 1984. and linkage. 2. vertical and even over hanging slopes (Grammer and Ginsburg. (1) Karst-related truncation and on lap fill. shelf strata. Siliciclastic strata also possess these characteristics. However. Steeply dipping clinoforms. (3) shelfward prograding carbonate clinoforms along leeward margins of rimmed shelf edges and associated onlap of flat-lying shelf strata. Idealized representation of common types of large-scale stratal patterns across carbonate platforms. Steep erosional slopes indicate that the sediments are lithified or they have a high shear stress. commonly comprise carbonate sand. 1986) because of early. and environmental factors governing carbonate sedimentation. 1. (7) alternating downlap and onlap. (6) downlapping clinoforms at the toe-of-slope. karstification. The ability of carbonate slopes to build beyond the angle of repose is due to organic binding. suspension deposition of fine-grained sediment became dominant and formed onlapping bottomset strata. or onlap. As demonstrated by (9). fluvial incisement. scoop-shaped incisement features formed by mass wasting can occur at sequence boundaries or within sequences. or just onlap (7). or submarine erosion can incise shelf edges at sequence boundaries. 1990). (4) steep-sided hummocky to lenticular mounds (bioherms) along rimmed shelf edges and in downslope areas. onlapping basin-floor strata (Bosellini. hummocky and lenticular mounds (bioherms or reefs) are present along rimmed shelf edges and in downslope areas. they reach 45° (Kenter. Carbonate sediments are produced locally by biogenic and nonbiogenic processes. 1991). these deposits may converge by thinning (8). due to interlocking particle shape and packing arrangements. Depending on climatic conditions. intensified lithification and the high shear strength of fine-grained carbonate sediments (Kenter and Schlager. 4. Organic-binding of sediments commonly leads to vertical depositional slopes in modern reefs. a wide range of particle sizes was available for transport and deposition in slope environments. tectonic setting. and in some cases. which downlap bottomset strata. 5. downlapping clinoforms that alternate with flat-lying. Additionally. many of which are seismically resolvable.14 Handford and Loucks STRIKE SECTION ® Figure 5. 3. 1989). 1986). and the deposition of nonspherical. Four major tenets form the basis of the models. In those cases. Such slopes may be depositional or erosional. In (10). Even muddy carbonate slopes attain higher declivities than siliciclastic muddy slopes (Schlager and Camber. Steep-sided. 1979) are locally present. platforms may be com- . (8) clinoforms may simply converge by thinning. (5) depositional slopes up to and exceeding the angle of repose. Climatic factors are fundamentally important to distinguishing platforms. carbonate depositional and erosional processes.

shallow-water platforms produce large quantities of fine-grained sediment. erode the inter- fluves and transport sediment across the shelf to the new lowstand shoreline. Thus. A far different relationship exists in carbonate platforms when comparing sediment production/ availability and relative sea level. to function as working hypotheses to help geologists visualize how and why carbonate strata were laid down and fit together as they do. any loose sediments shed during a lowstand should be relatively free of ooids (Schlager.Posamentier and Vail. open. If sea level drops to or below the shelf edge. 1988. or lowstand conditions. 1977). As idealized representations. The only productive part of the platform is the slope immediately seaward of the shelf margin. they are meant. Irwin (1965). Thus. 1983. and they shed a large portion of this sediment to the adjacent slopes and basins (Droxler and Schlager. which is dominated by ooid grain- . and evaporite sediments. humid carbonate. (1990). Furthermore.1990). Lowstand Conditions Shorelines are dynamic environments. so does the amount and type of sediment shed from the shelves onto the adjacent deep-water slopes. Steep slopes correlate to narrow bands of sediment production and gentle slopes form wider bands (Figure 12). nature of sediment source.Hine et al. and its width is dependent on the slope gradient. These depositional processes commonly lead to the accumulation of submarine fans and thick wedges of strata below the shelf margin that make up the lowstand systems tract (Haq et a1. Depositional sequence and systems tract models are generally predictive because they show the pattern of change or growth and demise of the major types of carbonate platforms and associated depositional systems as they respond to relative sea-level changes.. 1981.Vail. Neumann and Land. they are not rigid templates within which stratigraphers can forcefully fit a carbonate sequence. tropical marine shelf is covered by 10 m of seawater. the static models of Ahr (1973). drainage characteristics. 2. The stratigraphic positions of these sediment types within a sequence are not random and they offer important clues to relative sea-level history. During highstands. Vail (1987). fluvial channels incise the exposed shelf.. or shelf edge. they are intended to supplement Sarg's (1988)carbonate sequence stratigraphic model and they can accompany the siliciclastic depositional sequence and systems tract models of Haq et al. it is not greatly affected by relative sea-level changes. tectonic subsidence.Furthermore. 10).7). 1975. Read (1985) and Wilson (1975). Stratal patterns were drawn sequentially with their relative thicknesses and geometries conforming to expected and observed rates of carbonate productivity and accumulation. the bathymetric profile is practically identical regardless of sea-level position.and Van Wagoner et al. While not intended to represent final solutions to carbonate sequence stratigraphy. Although constructed to demonstrate the dynamic nature of carbonate platforms. 3. If a wide. should not change substantially with a fall or rise in relative sea level (Figure 12). Although the rate of siliciclastic sediment delivery to a coast fluctuates according to many factors operating outside the basin (tectonic uplift. however. However. and rate of sediment delivery.). Thus. when sea level has dropped below the shelf margin. Kendall and Schlager. (1987).1987. 1991). however. induding stratal patterns and facies characteristics.. rather than replace. the subaerially exposed shelf generally becomes a site for erosion and sediment bypass. 1981a. the models should complement.Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 15 posed of any mixture of carbonate. during lowstand conditions. siliciclastic.However. sea-level changes can govern the dispersal of siliciclastic sediment across shelves (Vail et al. a healthy and productive carbonate factory should produce abundant amounts of carbonate sediment. a humid carbonate ramp. a significant volume of sand may be delivered to point sources along the shelf edge by fluvialdeltaic systems and subsequently deposited in the slope and basin environments by sediment gravityflow and mass-wasting processes. In carbonate environments.. arid carbonate-evaporite-siliciclastic rimmed shelf and ramp (Figures 9. In siliciclastic provinces. 1987). relative sea-level changes exert a strong control over sediment production and dispersal. humid carbonate-siliciclastic rimmed shelf (Figure 8). during lowstands (type 1 unconformity). The width of the sediment-production zone for a homoclinal ramp. The following discussions focus on inferred and observed responses of these types of platforms to relative sea-level changes. Seaward migration of a shoreline occurs with a relative fall of sea level. humid carbonate rimmed-shelf and ramp (Figures 6. sediment production is terminated on platform tops and is geographically constrained to shelf margins and upper slopes.and 4. the models are idealized representations of the expected and known response of carbonate systems to various stands of sea level. and will migrate depending upon eustasy. Mullins. and leaves in its wake an exposed shelf. climate. rarely remaining stationary for long periods of time. As carbonate sediment production on rimmed shelves varies with relative sea level. Examples of these types of modern and ancient platforms are listed in Table 2. 4. 1985. detached rimmed shelf (Figure 11). since ooids are produced only when bank-tops are flooded.Wilber et a1. for example. However. Since a ramp has no marked break in slope. The following types of rimmed shelves and ramps were modeled: 1. Posamentier and Vail (1988). However. the onceflooded platform is now subaerially exposed and unable to produce sediment. the models do not purport to address exceptions and anomalies. etc.

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. 1989) and the nature of the river alluvium which seals off the permeable carbonate beneath. blind valleys. reefs are present -4 km seaward of the prodelta slope on the inactive northern half of the Mahakam delta. Shelf edges may advance laterally during a sea-level fall but the shelf break advances more as a result of sea-level lowering (reducing accommodation space) than to deposition (Posamentier et al. subaerially exposed carbonate shelves commonly undergo a dramatic. This type of offlap is referred to as a forced regression (Posamentier et al. No other process is so singularly important in modifying limestone terrains. Episodic and infrequent influx may not seriously affect carbonate sedimentation or its ability to recover. Pomar. Long incised valleys are cut by through-flowing allogenic rivers with headwaters that rise on impervious rocks. The interaction of soluble carbonate minerals in limestone and chemically aggressive water (H2C03. Jennings. 1974. For example. following a type 1 and type 2 sequence boundary. vugs. where Pleistocene reefs form steplike terraces such that the oldest terrace lies inland and -100 m higher than the youngest terrace. or absent (Jennings. Red Sea. may be mitigated by high rates of rainfall. Even in semiarid and arid karst regions. 1971). unless major environmental factors governing carbonate deposition have changed. but the drainage density is still generally less than on other types of rocks in the same region (Jennings. The formation of karst landforms and the development of a subterranean drainage network of caves are hallmarks of the karstification process. Surface drainage over karst terrain is liable to be intermittent. Fluvial-deltaic or eolian processes can spread siliciclastic sediments far and wide across subaerially exposed platforms during lowstands. Esteban and Giner. Magnier et al. which dissociates into H+ and HC03. which are infrequently flash flooded (Friedman. A key to the development of sequence boundary karst is climate. widely spaced. however. and virtually every major weathering and erosional product of a subaerially exposed carbonate terrain in a humid environment can be attributed to it.. 1991. 1971). yet lacking fractures. An extreme example of a forced regression is present in Bonaire (Figure 13B). 1975). and of course vadose and phreatic solution caves. 1981. Indonesia (Gerard and Oesterle. 1989. Modification of a carbonate terrain into a karst landscape along sequence boundaries routinely leads to a variety of unique landforms. Karst formation and the richness and diversity of karst landforms diminish with a decrease in rainfall (Ford and Williams. Roberts and Murray. Siliciclastic and carbonate environments may coexist but the influx of large amounts of silt and clay and large volumes of fresh water via river systems will terminate carbonate sedimentation along shelf edges. 1988. and they are also present along the margins of alluvial fan-deltas in the Gulf of Elat. This alluvial material may represent (1) terra rossa soils eroded from the karst surface. offlapping manner (Figure 13A). Surface karst and cave development favors relatively dense carbonate rocks with faults. In addition. 1990). carbonate sediment production is diminished and the potential for significant shelf-edge progradation by depositional means is reduced greatly. matrix porosity and permeability of the host carbonate rock are important. and temperature (White.CarbonateDepositional Sequencesand SystemsTracts stone deposition during highstands of sea level. The ability of a stream to cross a karst terrain is dependent on the capacity of the karst to absorb water (Ford and Williams. 1984). 1971). Franseen and Mankiewicz. which begin their courses on karst terrain. are commonly initiated as large spring resurgences.. is likely to deposit a similar proportion of ooid grainstone deposits during lowstands. Esteban and Giner. joints. in those situations. vertical shafts. 1990).. geomorphic metamorphosis due to weathering by dissolution. fractures. Franseen and Mankiewicz.. disrupted. 1977. 1977. is less apt to occur. Where sea-level falls below a shelf edge. Pomar. Lowstand Karstification 19 When relative sea level falls below the shelf edge. rivers are absent or scarce. or other conduits. 1991) and ample sediment was generated and deposited on the shelf edge and slope. 1981. Carbonate examples of a forced regression are illustrated in Miocene shelf-edge reefs of southeastern Spain and Mallorca (Dabrio et al.Kobluk and Lysenko. (2) detritus weathered . Focused groundwater flow through carbonate rocks with high matrix porosity. 1971). which lies along the coast and -10m above sea level (De Buisonje. More frequent and elaborate river patterns are present in humid karst regions. created by charging rainwater with atmospheric and soil-derived CO2 gas) penetrating fissures and voids creates unique dissolutionally modified landforms known collectively as karst. incised valleys are not well developed.Despite the inferred subaerial exposure of the platform top. They include collapse and solution sinkholes of various sizes. 1991. This leads to a shelf edge which advances in a downward shifting.1993). 1991). and hence. What happens to the carbonate shelf edge during a relative sea-level fall is largely a function of accommodation and reduced sediment production as the areal extent of inundation on top of a platform decreases. 1973.Rainwater flows only short distances across karst terrain before infiltrating rock matrix or spills into open joints. 1988). reduction of the carbonate factory. these lowstand shelf edges continued to prograde because accommodation space was reduced in front of the reefs (Dabrio et al. These effects. Autogenic rivers. 1988). and in particular the availability of water and CO2. Thus.Most surface water drains into dissolutionaUy enlarged conduits (caves) beneath the surface and travels down gradient before resurging at the surface as springs. and bedding plane breaks that focus the infiltration of carbonic acid-charged groundwater (Jennings. dry valleys. and karst development may be hindered or result only in spongework-type caves (Palmer. Intense solutional weathering of limestone terrains forms terra rossa soils that mantle the karst surface. 1991.

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> en c z <t (/) l:J: 52 :J: b « a: (/) l- == W l(/) > (/) w > (/) en w a: (!) (/) Z <t a: I- I- o (/) « a: l- == W l(/) > (/) c z cz: (/) l- ~ o _J .I- o <t (/) a: l- == w t.

~~~. less than 100.. During lowstands of sea level. If alluvium is lacking in a karst surface stream. Time may be an unimportant factor where precipitation rates are high.400 yr.'_<:'-'-'_:'-'. _ ~_~. I . clastic sediment. All portions of a platform which has been subaerially .~. The width is greater for gentle slopes than for steep slopes..A._7. the width of the shallow seafloor in contact with the lO-m-thick factory is directly proportional to the slope.'.N. streams may incise through corrosion and corrasion (Jennings.:. - -·-·':'.'.~.. which are recognizable in cores and outcrops.S. allogenic streams carry a greater amount of terrigenous sediment than autogenic streams over carbonate terrain. because rates of solutional denudation vary linearly with precipitation (White.. Thus. In general.~ _ .'. 1988). For homoclinal ramps.~.'~._~. '--'''':'_"-.. For example."~~~~_'.. 1988)._. Karst-formed features. Caves and karst can form quickly.~~. solutional denudation rates in karst terrain of Papua New Guinea range from 270-760 mm/1000 yr (Maire. . Given enough time and sufficient water.~SLI ~ GENTLE SLOPE SL 2 IY """-'-''':'''_..28 Handford and Loucks ~_H~IG. platform tops are inundated and the extent of the carbonate factory is great. 1989)... and brecciated cave roofs (Loucks and Handford.. high-frequency sea-level cycles with durations as short as tens of thousands of years can result in the formation of karst features along sequence boundaries in humid climates.: __'-'. ~.. questions remain regarding whether carbonate platforms generally are exposed to subaerial conditions sufficiently long to develop karst topography. most carbonate terrains will develop a karst landscape.000 yr (Ford and Williams. However.~.T~E~NmT~~~'~~'~'~'7'~~1'~'~~~' ?'~'. ~~~. CARBONATE ._. Thus.~_~.'..1. prior to another sea-level rise._. 1989). In fact..~. incised valleys are present.&~:~SL2 z:. although there is a general perception that fluvial incision is unimportant on subaerially exposed carbonate platforms. karst topography may be identified in structure maps as closed depressions (dolines). Karstification can affect all carbonate facies but may be better developed in some than in others. -._~.000 yr.~~~'~_~'. Thus.D~E. the extents of the highstand and lowstand factories are equal.~_. Figure 12.~~.~. of the Caribbean region (White.or sitespecific.._ ' .000 yr. a carbonate platform could be denuded by 55 min 110. Ford and Williams (1989) showed that for the last 240.':LOWSTAND EXTENT SL 1 HOMOCLINAL RAMP / (:::::-1 -- .~~~. the formation of karst features at and below sequence boundaries during lowstands of sea level attaches a distinctive facies overprint to the previously deposited highstand strata. include terra rossa paleosols. Where adequate subsurface control is available. or (3) detritus transported into the karst area by allogenic streams that drain uplands underlain by noncarbonate rocks. incision is achieved mainly through corrosion.~~~.:. Where coarse detritus is present.H. The greatest limestone solution in the world occurs where it is wettest (Ford and Williams. many karst landforms have formed during the last 10. At highstands of sea level.X. carbonate precipitates). sea level at a tectonically stable area was -20 to -50 m below present sea level for about 46% of the time. when subjected to a solutional denudation rate of 500 mm/l000 yr. '. }_' "'_.~._~. as proven by their presence in many Pleistocene limestones.. 1992) (Figure 14). Karst features are not particularly facies. 1981). ':. FACTORY d . . The width of a shelf bathed by the highly productive lO-m-thick portion of the tropical marine carbonate factory varies significantly depending on eustasy and the slope.~ .. and eroded from interbedded terrigenous rocks. '':''':''' LOWSTAND EXTENTI HIGHSTAND EXTENT J._.'. or 110.000 yr old. '_. cave fill (breakdown. Although a relative sea-level fall precludes the production of marine carbonate sediment on exposed shelves. 1971)..

synchronous deposition of extraordinarily thick.. They documented megabreccias. It can be a signifi- cant erosional process on carbonate slopes and result in downslope resedimentation of large volumes of slope and shelf edge sediment. however. provided that sediments are poised for gravity failure and triggering mechanisms are available. Some subaerially exposed carbonates may show little evidence of karstification or calichification. Lowstand Shelf-Edge to Slope Failure and Sedimentation Slope failure is common in the marine environment. Failure is not constrained by relative sea-level position. scalloped bank margins. If a platform lies within an arid climate. It may happen during any sea-level stand. which lies near the transform faultbounded margin of the Caribbean Plate.Note. and large. (B) A Pleistocene example from Bonaire. 1988). 1971. faulted and foundered carbonate platforms. Two examples of a forced regression in carbonates.Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 29 A B Figure 13. Tectonic activity and seismicity are probably important. This mechanism was invoked to explain the widespread. graded carbonate . In those cases (1) the length of exposure may have been too brief for the features to form.Franseen and Mankiewicz. or (3) high intergranular permeabilities and porosities may have hindered the formation of conventional karst (Jennings. displaced blocks in the Nicaraguan Rise. (A) Sea-level lowering (SL 1 to SL 3) and a reduction of accommodation space lead to continued progradation. but in a downstepping.Meyers. offlapping manner. 1991). Netherlands Antilles illustrates the general downstepping through approximately 100 m of sea-level fall (Kobluk and Lysenko. exposed and penetrated by meteoric water can be affected. especially on muddy slopes. karst features may be less common and give way to caliches. This style mimics the patterns recognized in the Miocene of Spain (Dabrio et al. 1984). (2) surfaceformed karst and caliche features formed but were subsequently stripped off by erosion. Earthquake shocks probably triggered the catastrophic collapse of many platform margins. that the terrace formed at SL 3 overlies the older SL 2 terrace. as suggested by Hine and Hallock (1991). 1981.

These include the following: 1. 1989) truncate shelf and shelf-edge strata. Retreat of platform margins and the subsequent formation of scalloped margins (Mullins and Hine. cyclic wave-loading and associated. loss of buoying effect of seawater on marine sediments when subaerially exposed (Schwarz. 1991).. Whatever the triggering mechanism.•. Timing of slope erosion relative to sea level is commonly difficult to determine in ancient platforms. submarine erosion by deep-sea currents which migrate laterally in response to a sealevel drop (Pinet and Popenoe. For example. 1988). which were recently documented by Mullins and Hine (1989) in the west Florida Platform. or decrease the sediment strength so that the existing stress is sufficient to cause failure (Coleman and Prior. Pedro Bank. which could also be opportune for slope erosion. Eroded sediments are resedimented as onlapping strata against the slope. some ancient examples may have formed during lowstands of sea level. TURBIDITES & PELAGIC MUD r. Given adequate subsurface well control. Although the Bahamian features probably reflect tectonic failure (Mullins et al. 1987).'U:R:BI~DI~TE:S-. and 6. 1985). 4. No scale intended. pulsating pore pressures due to lowering of storm wave base into muddy sediments. Idealized vertical succession of sequence bounding ments under humid and arid climates. However they are immediately followed by sea-level rises. suggests catastrophic failure of platform margins. Lowstands of sea level are often cited to be opportune times for slope erosion and large-scale slope failures (Mutti. the Apulia Platform of southern Italy has scalloped margins. 1985. which Bosellini (1989) claimed was formed by catastrophic collapse during pronounced lowstands of the Early Turonian and Early Eocene times. and basinal environ- megaturbidites in the Pyrenees of Spain (Labaume et aL. 1 & PELAGIC MUD REEF EVAPORITES HST Figure 14. and stratigraphic resolution. 5. 1988). 2. due to landward migration of the carbonate factory and deposition of fine-grained sediment with low shear . erosion and undercutting of a shelf edge shoreline during a sea-level fall by waves and currents. structure and isochron maps may help delineate scalloped margins. 3. seismic coverage.PERITIDAL EOLIAN GRAIN SHOAL A A DESSICCATED BASIN EVAPORITES SIUC. DEBRIS FLOWS.• ARID WADI CAUCHE EVAPORITE COLLAPSE REEF LST . and in various parts of the Bahamas. Some triggering mechanisms may favor lowstand conditions.' DEBRIS CALICHE & PISOIDS FLOW SBrv~St~~~-T. Posamentier and Vail. 1986). it must either increase the stress on the sediment mass to the point of failure. shelf-edge. 1982). dissolution of shelf edge strata by mixingzone corrosion (Back et al. depositional over steepening and sediment loading during a previous highstand. facies in shelf. The presence of scalloped shelf edges..

Key to the latter interpretation is the contention that the submarine erosion surface can be traced updip into a correlative.Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 31 stress on the slope. or highstand conditions. based on Bosellini. more stable inclination. Lowstand fans are important in some areas (Jacquin et al. translational slides typically show hummocky to chaotic stratal patterns. depending both on the frequency and scale of failure. Kirkby and Pray (in Pray. argue for sediment production on a flooded bank top. whereas the production of skeletal sands can be produced at shelf edges. Slope failure often forms a steep scarp which becomes a focal point for subsequent retrograding failures in an attempt to reach a lower. and they move downslope by rotation or translation (Cook and Mullins. 1988). it should not be used without other supporting evidence to infer such an origin. Large blocks of sediment detach along glide planes. which show up as inclined. Clast composition analyses are useful for determining which environment suffered more from collapse. One largescale failure event or several progressive events will lead to an eroded slope and shelf edge facing a lowstand wedge made up of resedimented shelf-edge and slope sediments. Rossen et a1. some of which are thick (megaturbidite of Labaume et aI.. The origin of this sequence boundary is disputed. 1983. 1987) and contain abundant and exceptionally large clasts (megabreccia of Cook et al. 1986). 1984). subaerially exposed shelf edge. mixed siliciclastic-carbonate slope deposits of the Permian Cutoff Formation rest unconformably on the carbonate platform and muddy slope strata of the Bone Spring-Victorio Peak formations. Unless translational slide blocks break up during downslope movement. 1988. Flow volume increases with scale of catastrophic slope failure. However. The presence of abundant large clasts is fostered by the tendency for carbonate sediments to lithify in submarine and subaerial environments. lowstand carbonate deposits (Jacquin et aI. they may display concordant stratal relationships. Where disruption does occur. suggest recurrence over a period of time. For example. and resedimented deposits at the toe-of-slope and into the basin. which would render them difficult to recognize seismically. 1991). In the absence of slope and shelf-edge failure. 1988). 1991). Lowstand slope and toe-of-slope carbonates are dominated by sediment gravity-flow deposits (Figure 14). While the presence of a debris-flow deposit in a carbonate depositional sequence might raise suspicions of a lowstand origin. (1988) believe that the sequence boundary formed during a relative fall in sea level. Nardin et al. that the displaced blocks originated from submarine environments that were too deep to have been subaerially exposed. 1991.. Some slumps and slide blocks are believed to break up during downslope movement and spawn largescale sediment-gravity flows. if the . Lowstand carbonate turbidites may contain skeletal grains and clasts shed penecontemporaneously from lowstand shelf-edge environments and clasts derived from the older. however. More complicated lowstand geometry will result where siliciclastic sediments are introduced to rimmed shelves and adjacent slopes.. Thinner deposits may imply small-scale failures and. if stacked one on top of the other. The composition of lowstand sediment gravityflow deposits differs from highstand deposits and can be used cautiously as a key to interpreting relative sea level position.Rotational slide blocks usually move short distances whereas translational slide blocks move longer distances prior to redeposition as coherent to chaotic masses at the toe-of-slope. The volume of affected strata varies greatly. Furthermore. regardless of sea-level stand (Schlager. subaerially exposed erosional surface. there is a greater tendency in car- bonate systems for line sources of sediment to operate and form toe-of-slope carbonate aprons (Mullins and Cook.. Chaotic patterns may reflect nearly complete disruption of a slide block due to soft-sediment deformation or transformation of the slide into a debris flow. Furthermore. Ooids and peloids are scarce in lowstand turbidites because their formation requires flooded well-circulated platform tops. Thick lowstand deposits imply catastrophic large-scale failure of slopes or shelf edges. the presence of ooids and peloids. Recent findings indicate that most carbonate blocks lack features which can be attributed to subaerial exposure (Yose. 1988) interpreted the sequence boundary as a submarine erosion surface which formed during a relative rise in sea level on the basis of an apparently deepening-upward sedimentological record in the upper Victorio Peak Formation. especially if there is any lag time between erosion of the shelf edge and slope and the input of siliciclastic sediments during lowstand conditions. In the Guadalupe Mountains. slope and shelf-edge failure is common and can lead to the deposition of thick. Texas. In addition. lowstand slope-basinal deposits should be relatively thin. 1972). Slope failure leads to the formation of sediment slides. Deposition of carbonate lowstand deposits leads to the formation of basinward thinning wedges that onlap slopes and are locally thick near the toe-of-slope. however. Yose concluded that sequence models in which carbonate megabreccias are viewed as lowstand deposits are not applicable to the Triassic Sciliar-Catinaccio buildup in northern Italy. despite a sea-level fall. slide scars. Sarg. 1979). although deep-water carbonate sediments may be introduced along some point sources to form fan deposits.. It is possible. scoop-shaped surfaces truncating underlying strata. The unconformity represents a sequence boundary along which erosion removed 250 m of Bone Spring-Victorio Peak strata over a lateral distance of 3 km prior to deposition of the Cutoff Formation (Rossen et al.. interstratified with the blocks. 1991). megabreccias making up Triassic slope deposits in the Dolomites of northern Italy were cited as a possible example of an allochthonous lowstand wedge in which the carbonate clasts were derived from a subaerially exposed platform (Sarg.

depending on the amount of evaporative drawdown.y. the curves do show that the falling limb of a eustatic drop in sea level can take as much as 1-2 m. 1987). In marine siliciclastic systems. Since the extent of the carbonate factory is reduced along rimmed shelf edges during sea-level Iowstands. which records the cumulative effects of erosion. Maximum transgression commonly leads to sediment starvation and the deposition of hemipelagic and pelagic sediments over a large area of the shelf. Lowenstein and l Iardie. subaerial cementation mav have been limited so that the ooids could have bee~ eroded as loose grains from the platform top during lowstand and redeposited downslope. the response often proceeds through three phases: (1) start-up phase. a rapid. however. However. The passage from highstand to lowstand conditions and the formation of a type 1 sequence boundary are not instantaneous events. whereas layers of bottom-precipitated evaporites record shallow brine deposition (Arthurton. Although the accuracy of published eustatic curves (Haq et al. Under most conditions.. a distinctly discernible sequence boundary. and the Messinian evaporites of the sub-Mediterranean Sea (Schreiber et al. With deepening conditions and greater isolation from siliciclastic sediment input. Start-up of the carbonate factory lags behind initial transgression. 1973. Lowenstein et al. thus forming the condensed section. Loutit et al. Vail. or retrogradational. a ready-made platform is available for carbonate sedimentation during the earliest part of the following sea-level rise. 1987. terrigenous sediment content in the transgressive systems tract decreases upward (Loutit et al. 1988.. Where erosion outpaces the ability of the slope and shelf edge to heal by sedimentation during a drop in sea level. to complete in third-order depositional sequences terminated by a type 1 unconformity. Van Wagoner et al. and potash evaporites in some cases. leading to the deposition of laterally extensive nearshore deposits. In some cases. subaerially exposed shelf edge (Figure 15). 1989). or "falling limb. However.. distinctly discernible surface may paradoxically result. prograding lowstand wedge which stands below the previous shelf edge. however. the approach into a type 1 lowstand succession may show up as a series of truncation and onlap surfaces within late highstand. when accumulation closely matches the rate of rise and the platform remains at or very close to sea level (Kendall and Schlager. Sea-level lowering and reduced accommodation on the shelf over this amount of time lead to progressive erosion of shelf. a single. a relative rise of sea level over a carbonate platform also will lead to sediment starvation and platform drowning. 1990) under progressively deeper water. slopes are able to self-heal between periods of erosion during a fall.. succession of parasequences (Posamentier and Vail. Basin-center evaporites onlap the adjacent slopes of carbonate platforms and commonly consist of one or more cycles of dark. 1981). 1987) is debatable (Miall. relative rise of sea level can force the loci of terrigenous sediment deposition to retreat with the shoreline. This scenario would lead to siliciclastic lowstand wedge capped by progressively carbonate-rich slope and lowstand shelf-edge sediments. Water depth and the style of evaporite deposition varies. Some carbonate platforms and adjacent basins that lie within cratons or along newly rifted continental margins are periodically cut off from world seas by relative lowstands of sea level. if siliciclastic sediments are introduced by fluvial-deltaic or eolian processes during lowstands to form a shallow. 1985. since seismic reflections usually are the interference composites of many subreflections (Sheriff. 1980). and slope environments. (2) catch-up phase. fine-grained carbonate overlain by anhydrite... often results. If. when carbonate accumulation lags behind the relative rise.. Texas and New Mexico. 1988). 1991). This helps establish an opportunity for the deposition of basin-center evaporites (Figure 9). halite. Transgressive Conditions Figure 15. Handford. shelf-edge. Posamentier and Vail. 1990.32 Handford and Loucks platform highstand ooids were made of calcite (ooid microfabric is preserved) rather than aragonite. called the transgressive systems tract (Haq et al. 1988. which onlap the older. finite amounts of contemporaneous carbonate sediment are available for resedimentation in slope and basin environments. 1988. . These deposits can form an aggradational to backstepping. the Upper Permian Zechstein evaporites of western Europe (Tucker. when accumulation exceeds the rate of sea level rise and the platform builds to sea level. or gypsum. 1991). 1976). but marine carbonate sedimentation may continue. and (3) keep-up phase." deposits (Figure 16). A siliciclastic lowstand wedge can form a shallow platform suitable for carbonate sedimentation to initiate upon if siliciclastic sedimentation rates are reduced sufficiently during the early sealevel rise. such as the Permian Castile Formation of the Delaware basin. Laminated evaporites composed mostly of finely crystalline cumulates and lacking dissolution surfaces are probably deposited from relatively deep brines. Seismic resolution of individual surfaces such as these may not be attainable if the interval of affected sediment is relatively thin. This can happen only if siliciclastic sediment delivery declines during the early sea-level rise.

Open and partially collapsed caves and sinkholes may fill with . Instead the relative fall is interrupted by brief rises or stillstands. perhaps a different interpretation would result. and erosional truncation at sequence boundaries. Sedimentation does not track sea-level rise but initially lags behind. however. (1990). may not be marked by a continuous sea-level fall. and tidal flats along shelf edges and shorelines. The formation of carbonate transgressive systemstract deposits across humid carbonate rimmed shelves and ramps (Figures 6. Subsequent flooding and catch-up sedimentation follow and when repeated. which can be manifested in the late highstand shelf-edge and slope stratigraphic record (C) as alternating episodes of mass wasting and partial depositional healing. which is mantled by soil or caliche. sediment production often catches up with sealevel rise to form aggradational or progradational shallowing-upward successions of organic buildups. 7. 1986) contends that the carbonate "factory" cannot go into full production and deliver sediment until sea level has risen enough to allow efficient circulation. toplap.Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 33 A c Time Expanded High-Resolution View of Late HST Depositional Healing Figure 16. Transgression usually reworks the surficial detritus into a lag deposit while the expanding carbonate factory produces new carbonate sediment. In (B). Thus. greater seismic resolution were possible. Mass wasting creates slide scars. no matter how fast or slow the rate of sea-level rise. seismic reflections have been traced and smoothed to show inferred stratal geometry. interpretation suggests the presence of a discrete sequence boundary marked by truncation and onlap. which show up as local truncation surfaces. If. A progradational parasequence set is more likely to occur when sealevel highstand is reached. 11) begins with the flooding of an eroded lowstand surface. commonly of karst origin. However. and subsequent depositional healing results in the formation of onlapping stratal units above truncation surfaces. Formation of the late highstand systems tract (shaded area in B). Ginsburg (in Hardie. grain shoals. once water depth is great enough for adequate circulation. Progradation may eventually stall as a result of building out into a deeper shelf during a continued relative rise of sea level. (A) A hypothetical seismic line across a carbonate platform shows reflections which have been interpreted to terminate by onlap. the result is a transgressive systems tract made up of an aggrading or retrogradational parasequence set similar to siliciclastic examples documented by Van Wagoner et al.

Clasts are often present and come from the transgressive reworking of both subtidal and subaerially exposed portions of parasequences. cemented burrows. 1989). This is well illustrated in south Florida where Holocene sediment isopach maps of Enos (1977) illustrate: (1) sediment onlap and thinning against the Pleistocene limestonecored Florida key islands. Texas. If siliciclastic input is great. backstepping. An advancing shoreface. Thinning is due to very low sedimentation rates or nondeposition. and beaches). impedes circulation and would force restricted conditions to develop in the lagoonal environments. worn. carbonate clasts may originate from reworking of hardgrounds.34 Handford and Loucks marine carbonate sediments (Figure 14). These flooding surfaces may form the upper boundary to subtidal. Texas. Sequence boundaries at the bases of transgressive systems tracts often contain caliche or karst features (Figure 14). such as glauconite. For example. landward encroachment of a high-energy shoreface and ravinement surface across a retreating coastal plain may rework part or all of the lowstand siliciclastics prior to start-up of the carbonate factory. intertidal. They are often composed of pelagic or hemipelagic sediments bearing planktonic and nektonic fauna and flora. and (3) some offshore patches of sedimentbare seafloor.g. and reef-crest and -flat boundstone clasts. carbonate parasequences are bounded by marine-flooding surfaces or their correlative surfaces. Tucker and Chalcraft (1991) identified gradational contacts separating lowstand eolian-fluvial sandstones from overlying transgressive peritidal dolomites in the Queen Formation of the Central Basin Platform. Once open-marine conditions develop and the carbonate factory is productive. At first. (1991) documented a sharp contact between lowstand fluvial-eolian sandstones of the Shattuck Sandstone member and overlying transgressive lagoonal dolomite and anhydrite. and reworking.. erosion. which remains subaerially exposed during early transgression. Mazzullo et al. Vagile benthonic organisms are generally rare. In the latter case. A relatively high rimmed shelf margin.. transgressive shelf deposits may consist of carbonate parasequences overlain by condensed marine shales and a progradational highstand fluvialdeltaic strata (Brown. lack calcareous algae and micrite envelopes. In mixed siliciclastic-carbonate sequences. these sediments eventually will form nearly blanketlike accumulations over shallow shelves. they would reflect both lowstand and transgressive deposition. Platform-interior transgressive systems tracts comprise stacked parasequences of shallowing-upward facies.. but there may be a diverse benthic microfauna. In the former case. tidal flats. Although Van Wagoner et a!. A low-lying or discontinuous rim would not impede circulation during flooding and openmarine conditions would ensue. 1979).. 1988. and organic matter are often present. Similar to siliciclastic examples (Van Wagoner et al. long submarine exposure. the transgressive shelf deposits may comprise a thin succession of clastics that grade upward into both transgressive and highstand carbonates. In rimmed platforms. encrusted. islands. Wendt. interior shelves of some prominently rimmed platforms. topographically high. subsequently planes off the tops of most eolian dunes and redeposits the siliciclastics into a transgressive marine sheet. and there commonly is an increase in 813C (Loutit et al. Condensed deposits. subtidal carbonate sediments are accreted to shorelines as onlapping. Skeletal remains are often fragmented and corroded. supratidal and intertidal mudflats. Lag conglomerates with bored. which have formed below the photic zone. (2) local thickening of Holocene sediment toward offshore banks and tidal deltas. Formation of open-lagoon to shelf or restricted lagoonal environments during early transgression will depend in part on the bathymetry of the rimmed shelf margin. Where siliciclastic facies are relatively minor sequence components. inherited topographic highs are onlapped and they may serve as nucleation sites for shoals and reefs. However. These sediments are typically thin when compared to coeval strata elsewhere. (1990)have observed few transgressive-lag deposits above marine-flooding surfaces in siliciclastic parasequences. low-lying interdune depressions are flooded and transformed into restricted ponds and lagoons. siderite. however. Erosion may be less severe where a shoreface advances across a coastal plain made up of low-relief eolian sheet sands and wadi deposits. such as in the Virgilian and Wolfcampian series of the Eastern Shelf and Midland basin. carbonate sedimentation usually lags behind the transgression across platform tops. Transgression of an arid rimmed shelf or ramp covered by eolian-wadi sands also leads to coastal plain retreat. Condensed deposits may occur atop platforms during maximum transgression (Loutit et al. 1988). intertidal beachrock layers. phosphorite. At first. and supratidal portions of parasequences. If siliciclastic sediments were transported across the exposed shelf during the previous lowstand and fill the caves. and their subsequent erosion by shoreline retreat. Given time. thin and even condensed intervals may occur in the deeply flooded. On the shelf. 1988). 1990). they do occur in both muddy and grainy carbonate parasequences. Formation of these subaerial features does not require a change in base level because autocyclic mechanisms commonly lead to aggradation and accretion of carbonate sediments above sea level (e. or mineral-stained clasts derived from underlying material are common and these may be succeeded by freshwater pond or marine facies (Enos and Perkins. and water-table hardgrounds. In contrast. coastal dunes. clasts are reworked from caliche crusts. and aggrading shelf edges are quickly re- . locally prograding units. Transgressive parasequences are cyclic and they may shallow upward into intertidal or supratidal environments with muddy or grainy caps. Authigenic minerals.

rims will form thicker accumulations than the adjacent lagoons and shelves (Enos. Similar features are present in carbonate sequences (Eberli and Ginsburg. 1988). the volume of sediment produced and. however. These progradation rates are comparable to those of Holocene siliciclastic shorelines (1.. surfaces. depositional processes. thus. but a hypothetical example is offered in Figure 14. some transgressive sand bodies were drowned and transformed into vegetated relicts because they were not able to keep pace with rising sea level (Hine. carbonate sand and mud produced on the shallow platform bypassed the steep upper slopes. As the rate of accommodation increase begins to decline (Iervey. and sediment production and accumulation rates. ceased -10. or so-called maximum flooding. This is because even largescale outcrops may contain local downlap surfaces that are not related to maximum flooding. and it forms just prior to a decline in the rate of accommodation development. regressive conditions develop and promote the formation of prograding clinoforms. [ervey. Schlager. but some gave way to grain shoals during the subsequent eustatic rise. During the Holocene flooding of the Little Bahama Bank. 1987.5-4. a downlap surface records maximum flooding conditions.500 y. the southwest Andros Island tidal flats have advanced at a rate of 5-20 km/l000 yr since the Holocene transgression. The western margin of the Great Bahama Bank has been prograding into water depths of more than 400 m for the past 5. buildups. the sediments must be delivered to a deposi- tional site. The accommodation space is quickly filled along shelf edges at first by aggradation and later by progradation. Local downlap surfaces can form within any systems tract . Van Wagoner et al. a stillstand. If they are able to keep up with sea-level rise. In some cases. or interval.. Rudolph and Lehmann. Shallowing is due mainly to aggradation of the seafloor and progradation of islands.6 m. 1989. Although progradation rates of ooid shoreface deposits are considerably less [-100 m/l000 yr at West Caicos Island according to Lloyd et a1. and slope strata (Sarg. which downlap a surface. In the Bahamas. as sea level rose and began to flood the top of the vertical platform escarpment. 1979). If these waters periodically spilled off the platform and bathed lowstand reefs. Posamentier and Vail. 1988. According to siliciclastic sequence stratigraphic concepts (Haq et al. Progradation rates vary depending on water depth. Until about 7000 y. Bahamas. 1988) and record the regional progradation of platform margins into deep water.y. Backstepping of shelf edges during a relative rise of sea level tends to isolate slopes from sedimentation so that they become sediment bypass zones. lowstand shelf-edge reefs backstepped as much as 30 m vertically during 3000-4000 yr of the Holocene sea-level rise prior to giving up. 1977. 1979.b. This transition may have been environmentally induced by the rise. 1988). Partially flooded lagoons that developed during sea-level rise were probably of variable salinity and temperature. On top of the platform. of maximum flooding.. These are commonly recognizable on seismic lines. During this interval of time. However.. and the early part of a eustatic fall (Van Wagoner et al. 1977).b.. Purdy.3 m/l000 yr. As the rate of accommodation increase diminishes.. the carbonate factory are greatest then. coral death or reduced growth may have followed (Hine et aI. 1977). 1989. 1981 b.5 km/l000 yr) and deltas (2-22 km/1000 yr) (Evans. aggradation and progradation in carbonate environments takes place as a result of in situ carbonate sediment generation and accumulation. Before aggradation or progradation can transpire in siliciclastic environments. When this difference is accounted for. shelf edges prograde into shelf lagoons because of a strong bankward energy flux and sediment transport from seaward margins or because the lagoonal margins are open enough to promote high sediment production rates (Figure 5). However. carbonate sedimentation is usually greatest during highstands of sea level because the extent of platform flooding and. 1974). and finally being buried by shelf-edge carbonate sands that were transported offbank (Hine and Neumann. 1988). 1969). (Ginsburg et al. Sediment wedges usually prograde seaward because sediment production rates and energy levels are highest there. as well as sediment delivery. Although dependent on accommodation space and local water conditions.p. when examining outcrops. Sarg. energy. Grammer and Ginsburg (1992) showed that slope deposition around the Tongue of the Ocean. shallow-marine sedimentation rates commonly exceed subsidence and the eustatic rise. therefore. Harris. a much larger volume of sediment is deposited above sea level as eolian dunes up to 18 m high] than in the Andros Island tidal flats. platform shallowing occurs. We have not seen any documentation of the lowstand and transgressive succession of lithofacies in ancient rimmed shelf margins. 1987.5-2 km/1000 yr (Kinsman. The Persian Gulf tidal flats have prograded at a rate of 0. one must be cautious in identifying downlap. 1991) at an average rate of 1. separates the transgressive and highstand systems tracts. Sediment production rates along rimmed shelf edges are greater than surrounding environments.p. 1988) and overall sediment production rates remain high. 1981). shoals. or interval. Vail. This maximum flooding surface. and the shoreline. shelf-edge. Early Holocene lowstand shelf edges around the Bahamas commonly were dominated by reefs. (1987). the actual sedimentation rates at West Caicos Island and the Persian Gulf tidal flats are comparable. being submerged more deeply. thus leading to deposition of aggradational to progradational shelf. Highstand Conditions Highstand systems tract deposition occurs during the late part of a eustatic rise.Carbonate Depositional Sequences and Systems Tracts 35 established during sea-level rise. 1988.

platform evaporites probably onlap barriers. For platform evaporites. Western Australia were 4-5 m kyr (Logan. the Jurassic Buckner. the proper disconnection from open sea is established (Lucia. seal-. Schreiber and Hsu (1980) determined that subaqueous evaporite depositional rates range from 1-100 m kyr·1. parasequences. Future work should attempt to test these and other models by conducting detailed stratigraphic studies . Careful examination. and sufficiently large volumes of seawater are available for evaporation. Prograding rimmed shelf edges and ramp beach-dune complexes can depositionally isolate shelf environments. because the models are not templates that can be applied rigidly to any platform. Where sufficiently arid climatic conditions prevail. However. Since disconnection from the open sea is required. Posamentier and Vail (1988). by paying special attention to the myriad of environmental factors controlling the development of carbonate platforms. Low-lying evaporite environments are subject to flooding by low-salinity waters (continental or marine) that often results in the dissolution of evaporites. and sediment gravity flows add resedimented debris to highstand systems tract deposits in the slope and basin floor. and Cretaceous Ferry Lake evaporites of the Gulf Coast. For comparison. and rate of sedimentation. 1990) prograde into deeper water. shelf-edge reefs and shoals. Evaporites have a low preservation potential. 1981). evaporite deposition (chiefly aggradation in subaqueous settings) can commence at a significantly rapid rate. they accumulate on slope and basin floors as periplatform oozes (Schlager and James. 1983). The methodology pioneered by Vail et a1. and basin-margin toes-of-slopes. evaporite sedimentation may follow. platform-interior patch reefs and grain shoals. these assumptions are not universally applicable and they must be modified to fit local needs. and Sarg (1988). 1978). Fundamental differences between (1) the depositional origins of carbonate and siliciclastic sediments and (2) depositional and erosional responses of carbonate and siliciclastic systems to relative sea-level changes mandate development of independent depositional sequence and systems tract models. 1972). Accumulation rates of the l-km-thick upper Miocene evaporites in the Mediterranean Basin and the Holocene Texada Halite in Lake MacLeod. however. sea level must not fall below the top of the shelf. Large amounts of platform-derived fine-grained sediment are transported offbank by storm waves and currents. Thus. Deposition and preservation of platform evaporites generally favor highstand conditions. (1977) offers the potential for documenting the depositional and erosional history of a platform relative to the tectonic setting. the models may be applied carefully to specific case studies to help delineate reservoir-. As platform seawater evaporates and forms a brine. there would be no hydrodynamic head to drive seawater through the barrier into the shelf. and core data. CONCLUSIONS Sequence stratigraphic analysis is increasingly viewed as an essential methodology for studying carbonate platforms. stormdeposited reef rubble. These conditions are commonly met in carbonate environments where autochthonous sediment production and accumulation rates are high or where allochthonous sediment accumulation rates are high. This scenario may help explain many of the Permian platform evaporites in west Texas and New Mexico. we believe that these models can be used to explore for hydrocarbons. Similar to the Exxon models of Vail (1987). If these topographically high features can form effective barriers to marine circulation and disconnect the shelf from open-marine environments. Posamentier and Vail (1988). Thus.36 Handford and Loucks where beds. certain assumptions were made and simplified for the sake of presentation. 1987. Collapse of shelf edges and slopes by way of rockfalls. 1989). Warren. however. These include muddy and sandy shorefaces. will usually show that the downlap surfaces are local in extent. our intent was to develop a general hypothesis of carbonate depositional and erosional responses to relative sealevel changes. recall that the average growth potential of reef-bearing carbonate platforms is 100 cm kyr (Schlager. Although a barrier can easily form during a sea-level fall. Otherwise. Prograding highstand shelf edges and slopes commonly oversteepen and fail. the prerequisite barrier could comprise shelf-edge ridges made up of eolian dunes and barrier bars. modern or ancient. Caution must be exercised. The analysis of stratal patterns is important to a sequence stratigraphic analysis of carbonates because of the unusual and unique patterns that often develop as a result of erosion and deposition in carbonate systems. When used in conjunction with seismic records. and parasequence sets (Van Wagoner et al.. they augment established carbonate-facies models and they complement sequence and systems tract models presented by Vail (1987). or reef buildups. the brine level lowers and initiates a hydrodynamically driven seepage of seawater from the open-marine sea through the barrier to replenish that which is evaporated. As a result. eustasy. Highstands of sea level lead to higher rates of resedimentation in slopes and basins (Mullins. however. All that is required is for the rate of deposition to exceed the rate at which accommodation space is created. and sourceprone facies. well logs. the net accumulation of a platform evaporite succession will not exceed the growth rate of the carbonate platform. Models presented here honor the physical and biologic processes that help control carbonate platform development. however. sediment slides. and Sarg (1988). A sequence stratigraphic approach is strengthened. bedsets. While the focus of this study has been on concepts and stratigraphic responses to relative sea-level changes. Slowly settling from suspension.

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