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Introduction to carbonate sedimentology
On a cold day along the Niagara escarpment, you have to imagine a warm, Silurian carbonate sea, like the Grand Bahama
Bank spread across much of North America
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The majority of carbonate sediments are produced by
organisms in shallow, warm, [normal] marine waters.
Oolite shoals "white, carbonate mud banks "darker# and reeflike structures "not shown# Aerial view in the $aribbean "% am
not sure where % was&maybe over $uba'#
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)hat about deep*water carbonates' "+hey are mostly produced by planktonic organisms in the photic ,one and then fall to
the deeps#
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In other words,
carbonate production is
basically organic, and
readily influenced by
water chemistry at low
temperatures.
When conditions are
right, carbonate
accumulation can happen
very fast. Thus, shallow-
water carbonate
producers can commonly
build! themselves out of
e"istence [this would be
more properly called
ecological succession]
Another modern carbonate setting&the Great Barrier .eef )hy did /ames 0ee )ilson liken carbonate sedimentation to 1a
cadillac with a defective carburetor2'
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Some of the classic sites of modern carbonate sedimentology studies are 4lorida Bay and the Bahamas Some of the
world5s nicest vacation spots6
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#ott and
$rothero
+he Bahames is a humid tropical setting )hy do carbonates do well in warm shallow waters, away from clastic influ8'
"lecture covers this#
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Small variations in water depths in shallow carbonate settings can generate facies differences :ark green are deeper
channels, white stripes are carbonate sand dunes "suba;ueous#, and tan to brown ,ones are carbonate mud with grasses
and calcareous algae )hat are other controls besides water depth on these different subenvironments'
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Although there are many controls on carbonate deposition, ;uite a few carbonates are redeposited by physical currents = the
bed forms in this view would be an e8ample )hat rock would you find if these dunes were cemented'
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$ross*bedded carbonate sands = sand made of oolites, forams, and skeletal particles +his is the famous Salem or %ndiana
0imestone of ?ississippian age %t is e8tensively ;uarried in %ndiana and used as a dimension stone, especially in the
eastern @S +his is the doorway of my apartment building in NA$ "photo from 1>93#
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Cere5s another e8ample of carbonate sand cross*bedding "labeled as 1cross*bedded oolitic grainstone2 photo from Dric
$heney#, in a core )hat factors must be considered when e8amining carbonates "even physically redeposited ones# that
typically are not an issue in siliciclastics'
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+hese cross*bedded carbonate sands are eolian "wind*blown# in origin %n the Bahamas "this picture is from San Salvador#,
carbonate beach sands "Bahamas have ON0A carbonate sand# have been blown into eolian dunes, and then cemented
+hese are Eleistocene in age
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%olitic shoals near a carbonate ban& edge
%n air photos, the clean oolitic and skeletal grains appear white +hey tend to 1spill over2 onto a platform, near its edge
)hat about this photo tells you that physical circulation and transport is a control on oolite shoals'
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Interior carbonate ban&'pelleted s&eletal muds
+oward the interior of a bank, the environment is muddy, and the resulting sediment is a pelleted skeletal mud Note the
little white 1delta2 at the bankward end of a spillover channel :arker patches are cloud shadowsF
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$enicillus
(alimeda
)dotea
*lypeaster
[an echinoid]
a coralline red alga
[+eo]goniolithon
,
$orites,
a coral
*alcareous green [codiacean] algae
+hese are some of the organisms that live in and end up making up the sediments in a pelleted skeletal mud @pper row to
the left are Calimeda, a coralline green algae Below them is Eenicillus, the 1shaving brush2 coralline green algae, and
@dotea, another common calcareous green alga +hese genera are among the most prolific carbonate mud producers on
modern carbonate banks Cow do you end up with mud out of these guys'
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Eorites and turtle grassG goniolithon also present, and other organisms amongst the larger elements Grasses "turtle grass#
and coralline organisms, as well as gastropods and other creatures, are common in the interior of carbonate banks Some
forams and other encrusters attach to the grass blades
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-ocali.ed buildups of sediments themselves often alter the character
of surrounding sedimentary environments.
+his is a carbonate mud mound in 4lorida Bay %t5s made of grasses, skeletals, and carbonate mud Note people for scale
+he mound is not solid, when you try to walk intoHonto it, you sink "% sank# down into scratchy "shelly# carbonate mud and
associated grasses and fauna
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Aellow ,ones are mud mounds and other shallow but still wet ,ones
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A mud mound will built up until it becomes shallow enough for mangroves to coloni,e "mangroves, though, are only
$eno,oic# +hese are red mangroves, the pioneers in 4lorida Bay $haracteristic are their prop roots
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Black mangroves occupy drier ground but are still tolerant of salt water and common flooding $haracteristic are their
pneumatophores "1roots2 that turn around and come back out at the surface to 1breathe55#
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Once the carbonate bank 1emerges2 to a subaerial environment, evidence of desiccation is also present
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+he black crinkly mats are "photosynthetic# cyanobacteria, 1sleeping2 until they are once again wetted, when they will
become green
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Cere are :evonian laminated mudcracks, made of cyanobacterial laminae ?anlius 0imestone, Bossardville Iuarry, EAG my
mom for scaleF
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.ip*up clasts "carbonate mud intraclasts# are common in carbonate facies, because carbonates commonly form in shallow to
intertidalHsupratidal environments, and storms rip up the mud*cracked clasts and redeposit them Ordovician $ool $reek
4m, Oklahoma
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)hat happens when cyanobacterial mats get buried'
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Cere is a Silurian limestone made predominantly of cyanobacterial*mat laminae +he crinklyHbumpy nature of the laminae is
a strong clue of their origin
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Because cyanobacteria are photosynthic, they thrive on bumps Because they are sticky, they trap "carbonate or other# mud,
and the bumps grow upward )e call these laminated forms 1stromatolites2
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Cere are some :evonian e8amples, ?anlius 0imestone, New Aork State&fairly subtle bumps
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+here are the most famous modern e8amples, in Shark Bay, western Australia
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Ordovician digitate "finger*like# stromatolitesG $ool $reek 4ormation, Oklahoma
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?ore e8amples, $ool $reek 4ormation, Oklahoma
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Some higher*relief stromatolites, $ool $reek 4ormation, Ordovician, Oklahoma
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/enestral
[birdseye]
fabric
So&back to cyanobacterial*mat lamination )hat are all the 1holes2 in this rock' "Silurian, %owa#
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)hen the organic mats decay, they generate gas, and the sediments are sticky, so the gas gets 1stuck2 in pockets +hey generate
different shapes %n carbonates, this is called fenestral, or birdseye fabric "fenestrae means windows in latin# +his is a peanut
butter Jar % turned upside down Note the evidence of which way is up&the large void half*filled with peanut oil "such a structure in a
carbonate would be called a 1geopetal2 structure because it tells you which way the earth5s center was6#
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%ncolite
[algal biscuit!]
0ctually, mobile
cyanobacterial
agglomeration
Cere is some fenetral fabric in the Ordovician ?c0ish 4ormation "Oklahoma# Grain is this photo include pellets, other
carbonate mud clasts, and oncolites "cyanobacterial*laminated clasts that rolled around&mobile stromatolites&also called
algal biscuits#
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-oo& for s&eletals, non-s&eletals, fenestral fabric, other
porosity types, cements 1 good e"ample of sparry calcite
Another outcrop of ?c0ish 0imestone with fenetral fabric, various carbonate mud clasts, and some skeletal elements, esp
large bivalve shells :o you see any evidence of shelter porosity' +ry to identify different particles and fabric elements
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fenestral fabric,
possibly moldic porosity,
some cement lining of
pores
carbonate mud
intraclasts
erosion or
dissolution
+his core was labeled limestone 1offshore shelf facies2 by the original author "photo by Dric $heney, but not the
interpretation# CO)DKD., mud intraclasts and fenestral fabric are characteristic of the intertidal to supratidal ,one So&a
misinterpretation we can now correct
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*arbonates are commonly [contemporaneously] cemented on the sea floor
$arbonates are subJect to contemporaneous cementation, either in the suba;ueous or subaerial ,one +his is Colocene
beachrock "recently cemented carbonate sand# on San Salvador %sland in the Bahamas
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+his surface is an e8posed "in a ;uarry# $retaceous 1hardground2 = a surface cemented at that time %t was shallow
suba;ueous at or shortly after the hardground formed
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Cow do we know that' +he hardground is encrusted with oysters, and shows also boring structures "holes made where
creatures bored into the hard rock#
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%rdovician paleo-hardgrounds %rdovician paleo-hardgrounds
+he dark, s;uiggly lines here are Ordovician hardgrounds, e8posed in a ;uarry in )isconsin +hey are pretty subtle&%
wouldn5t have noticed them, but a fellow grad student was doing his Eh: on themF
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-ocali.ed buildups of sediments themselves often alter the character
of surrounding sedimentary environments.
2ecause carbonates are produced in shallow water and build upward, they
are commonly subjected to e"posure [due to small sea level fluctuations],
resulting in intensive dissolution, cementation and recrystalli.ation 1
possibly many generations of such diagenesis.
Because carbonate*producers thrive in shallow environments, they can build themselves right up to sea level "and then get
occupied by mangroves and other organisms such as tourists# +his is $rane Ley in 4lorida Bay
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?ap showing location of $rane Ley Brown areas are always above water "e8cept in hurricanes6#
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D8posed carbonate are subJect to weathering and dissoluation, of course "this is Bahia Conda, in the 4lorida Leys#
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Cere5s a 1fossil2 "Iuaternary# weathered surface on San Salvador, Bahamas %t is mini*karstic in nature Cammer at
e8treme left
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Cere5s another paleo*soil*karst surface in the Iuaternary of San Salvador, Bahamas "the reddish hori,on#
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3essile, benthonic organisms who need to live in shallow, agitated waters
must have strategies for survival
Back to the underwater world 0et5s talk about how organisms manage to thrive in shallow, agitated water, which is where
carbonate*generating organisms "especially those who are sessile, ie, non*moving, attached#, must live to thrive
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#ott and 2atten
)hy do these organisms live where they do' "lecture material#
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Barrier reefs, at the outer edge of the platform, are a great place to live if you can take the agitation
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Spur*and*groove structure is a passive response of corals to the wave action near the edge of a platform )hy does this
help the coral withstand breaking wave action'
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Strategies for the high wave*active ,one include fast growth, as well as strong framework structure Acropora palmata is
very successful in modern barrier reefs
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+his is somewhat more delicate Acropora palmata = more delicate forms may break more easily but grow faster So they
can recover from breakage
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+hose pictures were from the modern reefs off the 4lorida Leys "marked in red at the lower right# +he 4lorida Leys
themselves are at their core a Eleisteocene barrier reef
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Cere is an e8posure of the Ley 0argo 0imestone, showing the coral*reef framework structure "we5d call this a coral
framestone#
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Behind the barrier reef are patch reefsG they can include more sensitive creatures
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+he dark ,ones Just offshore here, on the more protected side of San Salvador %sland, Bahamas, are patch reefs
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%n patch reefs, you can see more delicate coral forms = the most prominent here is Acropora cervicornis
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And other things like ?illepora, a stinging coralline organism Ouch Note the brain coral Brain coral is very strong, but it5s
risky for brain coral to live near the reef edge, because it can fall off
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%n the modern world, corals are the big reef builders, but in geologic history, many other organisms have made wave*
resistant, reef*like structures +hese include, eg, the rudistid bivalves of the $retaceous
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+he mounding in the right side of this outcrop is a rudistid bioherm, $retaceous of +e8as "note bluebells in left foreground#
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Cere are some rudistids "and bluebells# up close
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2e fle"ible, if you can
Another strategy for surviving in shallow agitated water "though not so good for breaking waves, necessarily# is fle8ibility,
which is practiced, eg, by the octocorals, or sea fans and sea whips "eg#
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%t5s also practiced by coralline red algae, which you5ll see in lab and you can find in almost any rocky tide pool setting on the
coast of )ashington or Oregon "and elsewhere#
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Cere is a fossil bioherm from the Eennsylvanian in Lansas
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+he primary skeletal element in this bioherm is phylloid or 1potato*chip2 "coralline# algae +hese potato chips were 1leaves2
on a stem Cow did such a delicate form survive in shallow, agitated water'
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4any organisms ta&e advantage of baffling!
1 living together in dense patches,
hence increasing the roughness [.-nought] and
thereby decreasing the boundary shear stress on their bed
If you live in storm country,
would you rather be out on the plains,
or deep in the forest,
Back in 4lorida Bay, a possible modern analogue "though without potato chip algae# = the mud mounds which comprise
skeletals, sea grass and mud )hy does sediment accumulate here, rather than Just getting washed away'
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Cere5s a view of some of the sea grasses and coralline forms found in the 4lorida Bay region, but this photo is actually from
the seaward side of the Leys, rather than the bayside&it was too muddy, and we were too traumati,ed by our slog, to take
photos in the mud mound )e sank into it beyond our knees, and it "the mud mound# was scratchy with skeletal and grassy
elements in the mud
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0ttach yourself to others, or to something stable
Another strategy for survival in agitated waters "well, this is at low tide, in $lallam Bay# Attachment, and grouping by
mussels "or oysters, eg# )hy does this work'
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Cere is a fossil oyster bank, $retaceous 1walnut shell bed2 Ddwards 0imstone, +e8as )hat strategy did these oysters
have' "can you tell from the outcrop' Or have you seen modern oyster banks'
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+hese are fossil oysters attached to a fossil hardground, also of $retaceous age
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5eep a
low profile
+hese coralline red algae are encrusted on rocks Eretty good strategy for the )ashington Eacific coast = with very strong
breaking waves
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[more] words about carbonate constituents
3&eletals
-ime mud
+on s&eletals
peloids
oolites
pisolites
intraclasts
coated grains, micriti.ed s&eletals, grapestone
$orosity [see handout]
primary
secondary
*ement [any pore-filling *a*%
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See lecture and lab materials
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0 few thin sections
+his is a colonial creature&depending on the scale, it could be a coral or a bryo,oan +he skeletal part is clearer, the
interskeletal voids are filled with carbonate mud
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Iuart, grains are gray, carbonates are yellow*tan*brown $arbonate*coated grains, and broken coatings $ement between
grains is also carbonate
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Globogerinid forams in carbonate mud 4ormer porosity inside forams is filled with carbonate cement
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?odern globogerinid foram, alive and dead
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Some skeletal elements in mostly carbonate mud Erobably a pelagic limestone
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$arbonate mud commonly ends up as various si,es of pellets&yeah, mostly fecal pellets, though crabs may make pellets
Just to keep the mud from being muddy6
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Another carbonate grain type&pisolites "Eermian, )est +e8as#
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?ore pisolites % don5t have a picture of oolites, because they are too small for my camera
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Another fabric element of carbonates&porosity&so many different types, intraskeletal, interparticle, moldic "from solution#,
shelter,6 "see handout# +hese are molds of evaporites, Eermian, )est +e8as
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Eorosity "in this case, it was mostly interparticle# commonly gets filled with cement