Challenges to carbonate-evaporite peritidal facies models and cycles: Insights from Lower Cretaceous stromatolite-bearing deposits (Oncala Group, N Spain)



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Quijada, I. Emma and Benito Moreno, María Isabel and Suárez González, Pablo and Rodríguez Martínez, Marta and Campos Soto, Sonia (2020) Challenges to carbonate-evaporite peritidal facies models and cycles: Insights from Lower Cretaceous stromatolite-bearing deposits (Oncala Group, N Spain). Sedimentary Geology, 408 (105752). ISSN 0037-0738

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Peritidal carbonate-evaporite successions, since they are developed in the transition between continental and marine realms, provide essential keys for palaeobathymetric and palaeoclimatic interpretations. As a result, several facies models have been proposed to assist on the interpretation of ancient tidal flat deposits, and peritidal successions have been extensively used for cyclicity analyses. In this study, well-exposed, Lower Cretaceous peritidal deposits (Oncala Group, Cameros Basin, N Spain) are analysed and compared with the most commonly-used present-day analogues (from Shark Bay, the Arabian Gulf and the Bahamas) and with ancient peritidal successions, providing their palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic interpretation, assessing the usefulness and limitations of the facies models, and evaluating the suitability of these deposits for analysis of decimetre to metre-scale cycles.

The studied peritidal deposits consist of thinly-bedded to laminated dolostones, dolomitic stromatolites, stromatolite breccias, flat-pebble and edgewise breccias, and calcite and quartz pseudomorphs after anhydrite nodules. Abundant resemblances of the peritidal deposits of the Oncala Group with those of Shark Bay, including that they are largely composed of microbialites and intraclasts, makes the peritidal deposits of the Oncala Group one of the best fossil analogues of this present-day setting. However, the presence of anhydrite nodules indicates pervasive evaporite precipitation in the supratidal zone, which is a feature that does not occur in supratidal flats of Shark Bay, but is characteristic of arid sabkhas of the Arabian Gulf. Nevertheless, the fact that carbonate-evaporite tidal flats of the Oncala Group were laterally related with siliciclastic tidal flats with large freshwater input and broadly inhabited by dinosaurs, suggests that anhydrites precipitated under less arid climates than those of the Arabian Gulf nowadays, pointing to semiarid climatic conditions during deposition. Moreover, the fact that peritidal deposits with anhydrite nodules were exclusively formed in a low-subsidence area of the Cameros Basin suggests that the rate of accommodation space creation also played an important role in their development. Regarding the comparison with other fossil peritidal sediments, the studied deposits show more abundant similarities with Proterozoic and Cambrian successions, composed mainly of stromatolites, microbial laminites, and intraclasts, than with other Mesozoic peritidal deposits, in which bioclasts and burrowing are usually more abundant. This highlights the difficulties for assigning specific features to certain geological ages. Finally, peritidal facies of the Oncala Group may change laterally and vertically to any other facies, showing a patchy lateral distribution of facies and an unsystematic vertical stacking pattern. The sedimentary features of the stromatolite, breccia and thinly-bedded to laminated dolostone facies do not allow their assignment to a unique tidal zone. Moreover, sedimentary features indicative of subaerial exposure, such as anhydrite nodules formed in the capillary zone, occur within any of the carbonate facies and show limited lateral extent. This results in a succession that cannot be clearly subdivided into subsequent shallowing-upward cycles not even by using erosive surfaces or the anhydrite nodule layers as marker horizons of the upper part of the cycles, because their limited lateral extent prevents reliable correlations. Similar composite lateral and vertical facies relationships have been documented both in the present-day analogues and in ancient successions, which suggests that this kind of facies relationships may be common in peritidal successions and highlights the caution that must be taken when trying to perform cyclicity analysis on them.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Tidal flat, Coastal sabkha, Microbialites, Anhydrite nodules, Facies mosaic, Cameros Basin
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Stratigraphic geology
Sciences > Geology > Petrology
ID Code:62943
Deposited On:03 Nov 2020 18:42
Last Modified:04 Nov 2020 08:37

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