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Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188 – 199

The Lower Triassic cyclic deposition in Chaohu,

Anhui Province, China
Li Shuangying a,⁎, Tong Jinnan b , Liu Kongyan a , Wang Fanjian a , Huo Yangyang a
College of Resources and Environmental Engineering, Hefei University of Technology, Hefei 230009, China
Faculty of Earth Sciences, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, China
Accepted 30 November 2006


The Lower Triassic strata developed in Chaohu, Anhui Province of east central China, including the Yinkeng, Helongshan and
Nanlinghu formations is about 268 m thick and consists of carbonate rocks such as micrite limestone and nodular limestone as well
as shale and argillaceous mudstone. The deficiency of sedimentary structures and bioclastic particles and presence of pyrite and
high ratios of V/(V + Ni) suggest that the Lower Triassic strata formed in a quiet, open-marine basin environment bordering
carbonate slope and lower slope.
Within the Lower Triassic, the cyclic deposits include two orders of thickening- and coarsening-upward successions,
respectively called basic unit (BU) and basic sequence (BS), which represent shallowing-upward cycles. Five basic units are
recognized and they are mostly composed of shale, argillaceous mudstone, calcareous mudstone and nodular limestone and
overlying nodular limestone and micrite limestone, about 0.25–1.4 m thick. The shale and mudstone mainly formed in a deep water
basin, and the nodular limestone and micrite limestone formed on the rise of basin margin or the base of slope. Thus, the basic units
are interpreted to reflect cyclic sedimentation from the deep water basin to the rise of basin margin or from the rise to base of slope.
The basic units are combined with medium- to thick-bedded micrite limestones and thus form four types of basic sequences,
average 6.5–14.62 m thick. Likewise, they are interpreted to be shallowing-upward cycles with long period, for example from the
deep water of basin, through the rise of basin margin, to the base of slope, farther, reaching to lower slope.
The various orders of cycle in the Lower Triassic are laterally very extensive, regionally, which suggests that the fluctuation of
sea level was likely a control on the origin of the cycles. These small-scale transgressive–regressive cycles possibly reflect
Milankovitch cyclicity.
The associations of basic sequences constitute two transgressive–regressive cycles which comprise strata of Yinkeng–
Helongshan and Nanlinghu stages, respectively, which is similar to the carbon isotope cycles of the Lower Triassic. Tectonic
activities can control the origin of the cycles. The collision of South China Block and North China Block in the Lower Middle
Triassic may have resulted in the development of the two cycles, and caused the shallowing-upward sequence of the Lower Triassic
from deep water basin to slope.
© 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: depositional cycle; the Lower Triassic; Chaohu of Anhui Province, China

1. Introduction

⁎ Corresponding author. Fax: +86 0551 2923056. The Lower Triassic in Chaohu area of Anhui Province
E-mail addresses:, (S. Li). is well exposed and easily accessible. The Lower
0031-0182/$ - see front matter © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199 189

Triassic of Chaohu area has been one of the classic (Feng and Wu, 1988; Zhang et al., 1989; Bao, 1998).
sequences in South China and it has received consider- Therefore, it is an excellent area for the study of
able study including paleontology (Wang, 1984; Tong cyclicity of the Lower Triassic in South China.
et al., 2005), biostratigraphy (Wang, 1984), sequence
stratigraphy (Tong, 1997; Zuo et al., 2003; Tong et al., 2. Geological setting
2005), and sedimentary facies and depositional environ-
mental interpretation (Han, 1983; Feng and Wu, 1988; Li The Chaohu area is located in Anhui Province in east
and Wu, 1988; Li, 1996; Chi et al., 1999; Li, 2000). central China. Geologically, it is situated in the northeast
The Lower Triassic is lithostratigraphically com- of Lower Yangtze region which belongs to a part of
posed of the Yinkeng, Helongshan and Nanlinghu South China Block, and is separated from the Dabie
formations, in an ascending order, and continues in Orogen and North China Block by Tan–Lu Fault to the
conformity with the underlying Upper Permian Dalong northwest (Fig. 1). The Chaohu area exposes the upper
Formation and overlying Middle Triassic Dongmaʻan- Precambrian through Middle Triassic strata except for
shan Formation (Wang, 1984). The Lower Triassic, the absence of Upper Silurian–Middle Devonian by
268.45 m thick, mainly comprises carbonate rocks erosion and unconformity development. The Late
such as micrite limestone, nodular limestone and Precambrian to Middle Triassic strata constitute two
marlstone, as well as terrigenous shale and mudstone. great cycles of transgression and regression of which the
The study area belonged to depositional environment Lower Triassic was deposited during in the second
of the margin of the open marine basin in the Lower regression stage (Li et al., 2005). The Lower Triassic is
Triassic (Fig. 1). Alternating deposits of carbonates widely distributed in the Lower Yangtze region and is
and terrigenous mudstones developed in the Lower composed of mainly carbonate rocks and terrigenous
Triassic, especially for Yinkeng and Helongshan shale and mudstone, ranging from 300 to 780 m in
formations, and the lower–middle part of Nanlinghu thickness (Feng and Wu, 1988; Zhang et al., 1989).
Formation. Coarse clastic sediments and gravity-flow During the Lower Triassic shallow water clastic and
deposits rarely occur, thus, the Lower Triassic carbonate platforms developed in the south while deep
sequences can provide integrated records on sea- water slope and basin environments developed north in
level fluctuation and tectonic events in comparison the Lower Yangtze region (Feng and Wu, 1988; Zhang
with the carbonate slope to the south where gravity et al., 1989; Bao, 1998; Fig. 1). The Chaohu area mostly
flow and storm deposits are extensively developed belonged to basin environment (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Induan paleogeography of the Lower Yangtze region and locations of the sections (modified after Tong et al. (2005) and Bao (1998), ▴ – the
section locations of the Lower Triassic).
190 S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199

3. Stratigraphic characteristics sides of the Majiashan, the northwest of the Chaohu City
(Fig. 1). The Yinkeng Formation is dominated character-
The Lower Triassic sections are located in the northern ized by thin-bedded, yellowish green and dark brown
and western of the Pingdingshan and eastern and western terrigenous fine-grained sediments, 80.65 m thick and

Fig. 2. Basic units, basic sequences and cyclicity in the Lower Triassic in Chaohu.
S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199 191

contains fossils such as ammonoids, bivalves and et al., 2005). The upper part is 36.42 m thick and
conodonts and pyrite granules. comprises gray nodular limestone, gray micrite lime-
The Yinkeng Formation is divided into three parts stone and yellowish green shale.
according to its lithofacies association. The lower part, The Helongshan Formation is 23.87 m thick and is
23.6 m thick, comprises mostly yellowish green shale mostly composed of interbedded yellowish green shale
with lenticular marl, argillaceous mudstone, calcareous and nodular limestone with intercalated beds of
mudstone, marl, and thin-bedded nodular limestone. medium-bedded micrite limestone, rich in ammonoids
The middle part is 20.63 m thick and consists of and bivalves.
yellowish green, light brown thin-bedded calcareous The Nanlinghu Formation located in Majiashan
mudstone and intercalated beds of grayish yellow section is 163.93 m thick and is dominated by carbonate
nodular limestone and lenticular manganese-bearing rocks divided into three parts. The lower part, 55.74 m
micrite limestone, among which develops a few beds of thick, is composed of the cycles of gray shale, yellowish
brown shale of tens to hundred centimeters thick. The green terrigenous mudstone, nodular limestone, thin-
lower and middle parts contain centimeter intercalations bedded micrite limestone, and interlayers of gray
of claystone which are regarded as volcanic tuff (Tong medium- to thick-bedded micrite limestone. The middle

Table 1
Facies characteristics, geochemical data and depositional environments for basic units (BU) and basic sequences (BS)
BU and BS Facies characteristics V/(V + Ni) ratios; Depositional environments
Mn (ppm) (from early to late)
BU1 (1.25 m) The upper: 30–60 cm; light gray calcareous 0.59–0.67; Deep water basin → base of slope
mudstone or marl; horizontal laminae average: 789
The lower: 50–120 cm; yellowish green and 0.68–0.82;
light brown shale and argillaceous mudstone average: 317
BU2 (0.45 m) The upper: 20–50 cm; gray or purple nodular limestones 0.52–0.77; Deep water basin → rise of basin margin
interbedded with yellowish green or purple calcareous average: 867
mudstones, rare bioclast
The lower: 8–20 cm; yellowish green and purple shale 0.68–0.82;
average: 317
BU3 (1.00 m) The upper: gray micrite limestone; medium-bedded, 10–20 cm 0.53–0.67; Rise of basin margin → base of slope
The lower: 80–110 cm; yellowish green nodular 0.52–0.77;
limestones interbedded with calcareous mudstones; rich fossil average: 867
such as bivalves, ammonites, ostracoda, crinoids, calcispheres
BU4 (0.25 m) The upper: 5–30 cm; yellowish grey nodular limestone 0.52–0.63; Deep water basin → rise of basin margin
with interlayers of calcareous mudstones average: 690
The lower: yellowish green calcareous mudstone, 4–10 cm 0.66–0.77;
average: 945
BU5 (1.40 m) The upper: gray thick-bedded (50 cm) micrite limestone or 0.39–0.45; Rise of basin margin → lower slope
wackestone 77–232
The lower: dark shale (1–5 cm thick) and dark gray 0.53–0.67;
micrite limestone (10 cm thick); dispersed pyrite 387–775
granules and organic-rich; rich fossil such as ammonoid,
bivalves, nannofossil algae, fish and ichthyosaurs
BS1 (6.5 m) The upper: about 2 m thick, repetitive superposition of 5–6 0.71; 759 Deep water basin → rise of basin
BU4 margin → base of slope
The lower: 4–7 m thick, repetitive superposition of 3–5 BU1
BS2 The upper: 0.94–2.04 m, gray thick-bedded micrite limestone 0.67; 665 Deep water basin → rise of basin
(5.3–12.94 m) The lower: 4.8–12.6 m, repetitive alternation of 3–8 BU1 and margin → base of slope
BS3 The upper: 2–3 m thick, gray thick-bedded micrite limestone, 0.61; 821 Deep water basin → rise of basin margin,
(4.93–9.83 m) intercalated by limestones with hummocky cross-stratification base of slope → lower slope
The lower: average 5.5 m thick, 3–6 repetitive alternation of
BU2 and BU3
BS4 The upper: 2–4 m, gray thick-bedded micrite limestone, 0.46; 363 Basin → base of slope → lower slope
(10.7–17.47 m) intercalated by pyroclastic flow deposits
The lower: 8–14 m, repetitive superposition of 6–10 BU5
192 S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199

Fig. 3. The types of nodular limestones of the Lower Triassic in Chaohu, China: (A) banded-type; (B) chain-type; (C) nodular-type; (D) stylobreccia-
type; the diameter of the coins is 2.5 cm; for explanation, see text.

part, about 36.39 m thick, consists of purplish, yellowish sequences on the basis of greater argillaceous content
green and mottled nodular limestones and interlayers of and thinner beds in their lower parts, and progressively
yellowish green shale or thin-bedded terrigenous increasing bedding thickness and decrease in argillaceous
mudstone, with a few interlayers of medium-bedded content in the upper parts of the units.
micrite limestone. The upper part, about 71.80 m thick, A basic unit (Ciner et al., 1996) is herein defined as
consists of interbeds of dark gray thin- to medium- the smaller simple repetitive accretion event (“funda-
bedded micrite limestone and dark thin-bedded shale, mental building block”) that we recognized in the
and medium- to thick-bedded micrite limestone, which succession. Basic units are 0.25–1.4 m thick, and are
includes a few layers of volcanic turbidites 1.8 m thick composed of shale and marl or nodular limestone,
at about 15 m below the boundary between Lower and calcareous mudstone and nodular limestone or micrite
Middle Triassic (Li, 1996, 2000). The Nanlinghu limestone. Each basic unit primarily shows the super-
Formation contains rich ammonoids, bivalves, cono- position of two distinct facies. Basic units are stacked
donts, as well as nannofossil algae, and a few fish and vertically to form thicker basic sequences, which are
reptile fossils in the upper part. interpreted to be shallowing-upward cycles with long
period. Five types of basic units (BU1, BU2, BU3, BU4
4. Definition and description of cyclic units and BU5) embedded in four types of basic sequences
(BS1, BS2, BS3 and BS4), each representing a specific
A detailed study of the shale, calcareous mudstones, depositional environment as identified in Fig. 2 and
micrite limestones and nodular limestone within the Table 1.
Lower Triassic led us to distinguish two orders of embed-
ded cycles (Fig. 2). These have been termed “basic units” 4.1. Basic units
(BU) and “basic sequences” (BS). Both cycles consist of
shale, argillaceous mudstone or calcareous mudstone The basic unit 1 (BU1) is a thickening-upward unit
overlain by nodular limestone or micrite limestone, hence, average 1.25 m thick (Figs. 2 and 4A). The unit consists
are coarsening-upward. We interpret the basic units and of two parts (Fig. 2). The lower part (50–120 cm thick)
basic sequences to represent shallowing-upward is yellowish green and light brown argillaceous shale
S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199 193

and interlayers of thin-bedded dark brown shale (about dysoxic water column (Hatch and Leventhal, 1992; Li
5 cm thick), intercalated by lenticular manganese- and Jin, 1995). Thus, the shale is interpreted to have
bearing micrite limestone (3 × 10 × 15 cm in size) and formed in a quiet deep-water environment, and the high
grayish brown or yellow thin-bedded claystones (about V/(V + Ni) ratios indicate a strongly stratified anoxic
2 cm thick). The shale consists of mainly the illite and a water column. The thin-bedded claystones are inter-
little silty quartz and mica, has high V/(V + Ni) ratios of preted to be altered volcanic tuffs (Tong et al., 2005).
0.68–0.82. The V/Ni ratios are environmental indexes The upper part of BU1 is light gray calcareous mudstone
typical of an anoxic deposit, and high V/(V + Ni) or marl, 30–60 cm thick. The basic unit 1 occurs largely
(≥ 0.7–0.8) indicates a strongly stratified anoxic water in the lower part of Yinkeng Formation, and also in the
column, medium V/(V + Ni) (0.4–0.60) indicates a lower part of Nanlinghu Formation.

Fig. 4. Types of basic units BU1–BU5 within the Lower Triassic strata in the Chaohu area, Anhui Province, China. The illustration of BU1–BU5 is in
Fig. 2. The hammer is 30.5 cm long and scale is 50 cm. (A) The lower part of Yinkeng Formation; (B) the middle part of the Nanlinghu Formation;
(C) the middle part of the Helongshan Formation; (D) the upper part of Yinkeng Formation; (E) the upper part of the Nanlinghu Formation.
194 S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199

Basic unit 2 (BU2) is composed of a lower yellowish and a more distinct interface between the shale and
green and purple shale and an upper gray or purple nodular limestones interbedded with calcareous
nodular limestones interbedded with yellowish green or mudstones.
grayish yellow calcareous mudstones (Figs. 2 and 4B). Basic unit 5 (BU5) is composed of repetitive alter-
The lower and upper parts are 8–20 cm and 20–50 cm nations of shale and micrite limestone and overlying gray
thick, respectively, and are interpreted to represent a thick-bedded micrite limestone or wackestone, average
shallowing- and thickening-upward succession. The 1.4 m thick. These are again interpreted to represent
nodular limestones have average compositions of CaO thickening- and swallowing-upward units (Figs. 2
47.62%, Fe2O3 0.80%, SiO2 8.14%, Al2O3 0.39%, K2O and 4E). The shale is commonly dark and 1–5 cm thick.
0.58%, CO2 37.80%, and the calcareous mudstone The micrite limestone is dark gray and thin-bedded,
average compositions of CaO 27.35%, Fe2O3 2.88%, average 10 cm thick. The micrite limestones contain rich
SiO2 30.51%, Al2O3 10.23%, K2O 2.08%, CO2 21.81% ammonoid, bivalves, and marine vertebrates such as fish
(Han, 1983). The calcareous mudstone has small and ichthyosaurs. They contain dispersed pyrite granules
thickness about 0.3–1.2 cm and relatively high lateral and are organic-rich. The medium–high V/(V + Ni) ratios
continuity. The nodular limestones are relatively thick of 0.53–0.67 of the micrite limestone indicate a dysoxic
(about 0.6–1.7 cm). The nodular limestones are water column. The contacts between the shale and
characterized by micritic texture, a series of intergrada- overlying micrite limestone seem gradual. Sharp, planar,
tions or discontinuous beds to apparently discontinuous continuous contacts occur between the shale and
but actually connected beds (chain-type or called underlying micrite limestones. The overlying micrite
pseudonodule structures) to individual isolated nodules limestone is characterized by light gray, medium- to thick-
(Fig. 3A–C). Occasionally they may form stylobreccia bedded (average 50 cm thick), and lower V/(V + Ni) ratios
(Fig. 3D). The nodular limestones contain rich fossils of 0.39–0.45, which suggests that it formed compara-
such as thin-shelled bivalves, ammonites, ostracodes, tively shallow lower slope.
crinoids, calcispheres and some bioclasts. The inter-
bedded calcareous mudstone contains flame structure 4.2. Basic sequences
often projecting between overlying nodules.
The basic unit 2 has an average 45 cm of thickness, Basic sequence 1 (BS1) consists of two parts, with an
mainly develops in the middle and upper parts of average thickness of 6.5 m (Fig. 2). The lower part is
Yinkeng Formation, Helongshan Formation, and the composed of vertical superposition of 3–5 basic units 1,
lower and middle parts of Nanlinghu Formation (Fig. 2). and the upper part vertical superposition of 5–6 basic
Basic unit 3 (BU3) comprises underlying yellowish units 4. The basic sequence 1 is characterized by a
green nodular limestones interbedded with calcareous thickening- and coarsening-upward, occurs in the lower
mudstones and overlying gray micrite limestone, and part of the Yinkeng Formation.
has an average thickness of about 100 cm (Figs. 2 Basic sequence 2 (BS2) comprises repetitive super-
and 4C). The nodular limestone commonly has greater position of 3–8 basic units 1 and 2 overlying 0.94–
thickness of about 80–110 cm, and the micrite limestone 2.04 m gray micrite limestone (Fig. 2). The thickness of
units are thinner, about 10–20 cm. These are interpreted basic sequence 2 varies between 5.3 and 12.94 m
to form shallowing-upward sequences. Basic unit 3 (average 8.48 m). It develops mainly in the lower part of
mainly occurs in Helongshan Formation and the upper the Nanlinghu Formation.
of Yinkeng Formation, and the middle of Nanlinghu Basic sequence 3 (BS3) is composed of repetitive
Formation. alternation of two types of basic units 2 and 3 overlying
Basic unit 4 (BU4) consists of underlying yellowish gray thick-bedded micrite limestone with a thickness of
green calcareous mudstone and overlying yellowish 2–3 m (Fig. 2). The basic units 2 and 3 occur common in
grey nodular limestone with interlayers of calcareous interbedded, and constitute 3–6 rhythms. Basic se-
mudstones (Figs. 2 and 4D). The calcareous mudstone quence 3 has an average thickness of 7.96 m (range of
is 4–10 cm thick, and the nodular limestone 5–30 cm 4.93–9.83 m), and thickening- and coarsening-upward
thick. These are interpreted to represent a thickening- sequence. It develops in the middle part of the
and shallowing-upward sequence. The sequence is Nanlinghu Formation, Helongshan Formation, and the
25 cm thick in average, and it mainly occurs in the upper part of the Yinkeng Formation.
Yinkeng Formation. Basic unit 4 is similar to basic Basic sequence 4 (BS4) is composed of 6–10 basic
unit 2; however, it can be distinguished from basic unit units 5 overlying 2–4 m thick-bedded micrite limestone
2 in having more argillaceous material in its lower part (Fig. 2). Total thickness varies between 10.7 and
S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199 195

17.47 m (average 14.62 m). It develops mainly in the Nodular limestones are very common in some
upper part of Nanlinghu Formation. deeper-water carbonate sequences, and there are various
theories about the origin of nodular limestones (Flügel,
5. Depositional environment 1982). But no single mechanism or sequence of
mechanisms is known which can explain the formation
The overall interpretation of deep-water basin to of all nodular limestones. Thus, each case must be
slope and regressive nature of the Lower Triassic in considered individually (Möller and Kvingan, 1988).
Chaohu area has been previously documented in The nodular limestones of the Lower Triassic in
paleogeography reconstructions (Li and Wu, 1988). Chaohu area comprise various types from banded
The Lower Triassic deposits are characterized by type through apparently severed but actually connected
presence and nature of mainly monotone body fossils (with pseudonodule structures or termed chain-type) to
such as thin shelled bivalves, ammonites, and ostra- single nodular, farther and stylobreccia (Fig. 3). The
codes, rare bioclasts, deficiency of sedimentary struc- nodular limestones are always interbedded with calcar-
tures, dark color, high V/(V + Ni) ratios, thin-bedding, eous mudstones. Thus, we interpret that it is necessary
and rhythmically interbedded limestone and mudstone to have two types of laminae which are calcium-rich
layers (deep-water rhythmites). These resemble the and mud-rich, respectively, and the former common are
deposits formed in quiet, anoxic–dysaerobic waters more rapidly cemented in seafloor than the latter. With
below storm-wave base (Elrick and Hinnov, 1996). compaction the calcareous beds become lithified and
Therefore the depositional environment is interpreted to modified into chains or nodules embedded in argilla-
be an open-marine basin environment with a depth of a ceous limestones. Later pressure dissolution and
few hundred meters (Han, 1983). According to Tucker compaction producing stylolites and marly seams
(2001), dysaerobic conditions also occur where the sea accentuates the nodular structure, leading to a stylo-
floor is within the oxygen-minimum zone, generally in breccia, which resembles Jurassic nodular pelagic
the depth range 100–1000 m. limestone found in West Berlin (Tucker and Wright,
The presence of thick-bedded limestone with 1990). Thus, we interpret the nodular limestones in
hummocky cross-stratification in the Helongshan For- the Lower Triassic have not been deposited in shallow
mation and pyroclastic flow deposits in the upper of water but instead to have formed in deep water envir-
the Nanlinghu Formation indicates local and occa- onment of the rise of basin margin. Rising of sea level
sionally high energy environments, combined with results in the increasing of water depth, decreasing of
terrigenous materials decreasing-upward and the beds production of calcium carbonate, and accretion of
thickening-upward, which confirm a shallowing-up- terrigenous sediments, which form lamina mud-rich,
ward sequences from lower to upper of the Lower and vice versa. We interpret the basic units and basic
Triassic in the Chaohu area. However, there are great sequences to represent shallowing-upward sequences
differences from deposits of carbonate slope, about based on greater argillaceous content and thinner beds
100 km away to the southeast Gaochun–Tongling in their lower parts, and progressively increasing
(Fig. 1), where various gravity-flow limestones such as bedding thickness and decrease in argillaceous content
slide limestones, debris-flow limestones, grain-flow in the upper parts of the units.
limestones, turbidity–current limestones and rockfall The medium-bedded gray micrite limestones situated
limestones, range of a few to tens of meter thickness, on top of the nodular limestone are composed of mainly
are extensively developed (Feng and Wu, 1988; Zhang micrite calcites, only a few quartz grains of silt-grade,
et al., 1989; Bao, 1998). Thus, the Lower Triassic in and less than 5% bioclast. They contain ammonoids,
Chaohu area interpreted to represent sedimentation in bivalves, microscopic algae, and locally indistinct
a deep water basin, rise of the basin margin and the horizontal lamination. These features indicate that the
base of carbonate slope (Table 1). micrite limestones formed under weak currents or quiet
The shale and terrigenous mudstone, developing on water conditions belonging to a depositional environ-
the lower parts of basic units 1, 2 and 5, consist mainly ment of the base of slope.
of the illite and a little silty quartz and mica, contain Basic units 2 and 4 comprise underlying shale and
large well preserved body fossils such as ammonites and calcareous mudstone and overlying nodular limestone
thin shelled bivalves and lack terrigenous or biogenic interbedded by calcareous mudstone, respectively,
coarse grains. This suggests lower parts of basic units 1, which reflect depositional environment from the deep
2 and 5 formed in a quiet deep-water environment water of basin to the rise of basin margin. Basic unit 3
belonging to basin facies. comprised nodular limestone interbedded by calcareous
196 S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199

mudstone and overlying micrite limestones formed in with those the two carbon isotope excursions (Fig. 5).
depositional environment from the rise of basin margin Subdivision of the two cycles is also supported by
to the base of slope. patterns in the element geochemistry (Fig. 5). The
The limestones with hummocky cross-stratification transgressive stages of the two cycles comprise basic
in Helongshan Formation are interpreted to represent
storm deposits (Tong, 1997), which are also regarded as
typical sediments of continental slope limestones of the
Lower Triassic, in South China (Bao, 1998). This
suggests that the rapidly descending sea level in
Helongshan stage resulted in short-lived slope facies.
The thick-bedded micrite limestone situated on the
upper parts of basic unit 5, and basic sequences 4, are
intercalated with pyroclastic flow deposits. The pyro-
clastic flow deposits with a thickness of 1.8 m
developed in the upper part of the Nanlinghu Formation
are characterized by turbidites, such as sedimentation
units with sharp base, gradational top, positive grading,
and Bouma divisions (Li, 1996, 2000). The pyroclastics
comprise gravels and sands of dacite lithics, crystal and
glass shards. The pyroclastic flow deposits are consid-
ered to be a transition facies between the proximal and
distal slope facies. Thus, basic unit 5 and basic sequence
4 are interpreted to represent sedimentation on the rise of
basin margin to the lower slope.
Basic sequences formed by basic units stacking
vertically are interpreted to represent sedimentation with
long period. For example, basic sequence 1 is
interpreted to represent sedimentation from the deep
water of basin to the rise of basin margin or the base of
slope; BS2 from the deep water of basin, through the rise
of basin margin to the base of slope; BS3 from the deep
water of basin, through the rise of basin margin and the
base of slope, farther, reaching to lower slope; BS4 from
the basin, through the base of slope, to lower slope
(Table 1).
The evolution from deep water basin to slope in the
Lower Triassic has been interpreted in previous studies
(Li and Wu, 1988; Tong, 1997). In this paper, two
transgressive–regressive cycles can be distinguished
based on the analysis of basic units and basic sequences
(Fig. 2). The first cycle comprises Yinkeng and
Helongshan formations characterized by basic
sequences 4 and 3 associations, which reflects sedi-
mentation from deep water of basin to the rise of basin
margin or to the base of slope; the other cycle is
composed of Nanlinghu Formation including basic
sequences 2, 3 and 1 associations, which represents
sedimentation from basin margin to lower slope.
Based on the study of Tong et al. (2005), the Lower
Triassic carbon isotope records in Chaohu show two
distinct cycles from strong negative to positive values. Fig. 5. The cyclic deposits of the Lower Triassic and carbon isotope
The two transgressive–regressive cycles are coincident and Mn curves (carbon isotope curve from Tong et al., 2005).
S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199 197

sequences 1 and 2 associations, respectively, which are reflection of various rates of rise of sea level. A
corresponds to the lower parts of Yinkeng and rapid rise in sea level with starvation of sediment
Nanlinghu formations, respectively. They have highest supply is the likely cause of the sharp contact between
contents of Mn in the Lower Triassic section, about underlying the top of one sequence comprising light
800–2000 ppm. Jarvis et al. (2001) suggest that the Mn gray micrite limestone and overlying the bottom of
flux increased with rising sea-level, with Mn reaching a another sequence comprising dark shale, which is
maximum around each maximum flooding surface, characteristic of basic sequences 4 and 2 (Fig. 2).
before decreasing again through the overlying high- These small-scale transgressive–regressive cycles
stand systems tract (Fig. 5). may be turned to Milankovitch bands (Ciner et al.,
1996), but without a detailed spectral analysis study it is
6. Origin of cyclicity impossible to verify Milankovitch forcing mechanism
The Lower Triassic in Chaohu area is characterized Differences between cycles of different stages relate
by a repetition of five types of basic units embedded in to the magnitude of the transgressions. The cycle of the
four types of basic sequences. Each basic unit or basic Yinkeng–Helongshan stage is dominated by thin-
sequence shows the superposition of two or three bedded, argillaceous mudstone, shale, marl and nodular
distinct facies (e.g., shale and micrite limestone), which limestone in comparison with Nanlinghu stage cycle.
implies a deepening–shallowing (or transgressive– This indicates that transgressions were more extensive,
regressive) character with argillaceous content decreas- resulting in a greater depth of water over the basin and
ing and bed thickness increasing upward. There are slope during the Yinkeng–Helongshan stage. The
basically three categories of explanation for the waning of transgressions in Nanlinghu stage is charac-
repetition of the shallowing-upward cycle: (1) eustatic, terized by increasing bedding thickness, shallowing
(2) sedimentary autocyclic, and (3) tectonic (Tucker and depth, and a basinward shift of the boundary between
Wright, 1990). These deepening–shallowing units may deep water basin and slope for tens of kilometers
be regarded as autocyclic or allocyclic depending on the northward (Feng and Wu, 1988), which may have
correlation of individual units and upon the nature of the resulted from the collision between South and North
bounding surfaces (Ciner et al., 1996). China blocks. Thus, the two transgressive–regressive
From field observations, the various orders of cycle cycles and overall shallowing-upward cycle can con-
in the Lower Triassic are laterally very extensive, tribute to the tectonic uplift which is supported by
regionally (Tong, 1997), which can be regarded as one increasing volcanic interbeds (Li, 1996, 2000; Tong
feature of cycles produced by a eustatic mechanism et al., 2005) in the latter part of the Early Triassic in the
(Tucker and Wright, 1990). Thus, the basic units and Chaohu area. Further the isotope age of 230 Ma of ultra
basic sequences recorded the facies change, environ- high pressure metamorphic rocks from the Dabie
mental variation, and fluctuation of sea level. Orogen indicates Triassic collision between South and
Basic sequences used in this study are essentially North China blocks (Li et al., 1993).
the same as parasequences, although they formed in
deep water environments, thus it is impossible to 7. Conclusions
distinguish a bounding flooding surface. The thickness
of a parasequences are controlled primarily by the The Lower Triassic strata of Chaohu are character-
water depth into which the shoreline progrades. So, ized by thin-bedded fine-graded terrigenous clastic
parasequence thickness is a product of the rate of rise and carbonate facies that are organic-rich and contain
of relative sea-level and the periodicity of the pyrite granules, high ratios of V/(V + Ni). Relatively rare
parasequences (Dominic and Keith, 1996). If para- of wave-reworked sedimentary structures and bioclas-
sequences periodicity is relatively constant, which has tic particles are interpreted to indicate that the Lower
been interpreted by Tong's (1997) study of the Lower Triassic mostly formed in a quiet, deep-water open-
Triassic strata in Chaohu, then a slow rate of rise of marine basin bordering carbonate slope.
relative sea level would result in thin parasequences, Five basic units and four basic sequences have been
and a rapid rate of rise would result in thick para- distinguished. The basic units, about 0.25–1.4 cm thick,
sequences. Changes in the rate of relative sea-level rise are mostly composed of shale, argillaceous mudstone,
should then be recognizable from trends in parase- calcareous mudstone and nodular limestone and
quence thickness (Dominic and Keith, 1996). Thus, overlying nodular limestone and micrite limestone,
thickening-upward basic sequences 1 through 3, 2 to 4 are characterized by thickening- and coarsening-upward
198 S. Li et al. / Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 252 (2007) 188–199

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redox potential of the depositional environmental and geochem-
that the fluctuation of sea level was likely a control istry of the Upper Pennsylvanian (Missourian) Stark Shale
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This work is supported jointly by the National anoxic sediments in Lower Yangtze Region. Bulletin of Mineral-
Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. ogy Petrology Geochemistry 14, 170–173 (in Chinese).
40572076) and the State Key Basic Research Develop- Li, S., Li, R., Wang, D., Liu, Y., Yue, S., Jin, F., 2005. The Phanerozoic
sedimentary records of Lower Yangtze and North China blocks:
ment Program of China (Grant No. 1999075507). We constraints to tectonic evolution of the Dabie orogenic belt.
wish to thank Dan Lehrmann, Wang Yang and an Abstract Volume of the Third Sedimentological Congress of China,
anonymous reviewer for their valuable advice and Chengdou, pp. 318–319 (in Chinese).
constructive comments; this paper was very much Li, S., Xiao, Y., Liu, D., 1993. Collision of the North China and
improved as a result of their review. Yangtze blocks and formation of coesite-bearing eclogites: timing
and processes. Chemical Geology 109, 89–111.
Möller, N.K., Kvingan, K., 1988. The genesis of nodular limestones in
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