Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles


Morphometric Patterns in Modern Carbonate Platforms Can Be Applied to the Ancient Rock Record: Similarities Between Modern Alacranes Reef and Upper Palaeozoic Platforms of the Barents Sea

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Sedimentary Geology


Depositional facies, Comparative sedimentology, GIS, Barents Sea, Alacranes Reef, Biotic self-organization





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In recent years, considerable research has been undertaken in order to gain a better quantitative understanding of morphometric patterns within modern carbonate depositional systems. The industrial application of the scaling/juxtaposition relationships derived from the Modern to subsurface Cenozoic carbonate reservoirs appears relatively straightforward, given that many key biota are common to both. However, the direct application of Modern sedimentary insight further back into the geologic rock record is more controversial, given the enormous changes in the biota, climate, sea level, water chemistry and so on, that have taken place. To justify such an approach, we contend that similar morphometric patterns should be observed in both the Modern and ancient data. In the Norwegian Barents Sea, numerous seismic surveys have imaged Upper Palaeozoic carbonate buildups arranged in polygonal networks, or reticular patterns. These patterns are observed in both warm water photozoan and cool water heterozoan carbonate stratigraphies, and are developed atop platforms founded on stable shelves, in tectonically active settings and platforms developed over basinal evaporites. GIS mapping of multiple seismic horizons allows the Palaeozoic reticulated morphology to be numerically compared to that mapped in Alacranes Reef from QuickBird satellite imagery. QuickBird's metre-scale resolution allows identification of subtle cross-platform trends, such as windward-leeward differences in the packing density of ridge-and-pond complexes, which can be correlated with the kilometre-scale patterning extracted in the Barents subsurface. Despite different controls and architecture, the patterning of reticular networks is statistically inseparable between the two systems, once the metre-scale Modern dataset is down-sampled to seismic resolution. Whilst other controls cannot unequivocally be ruled out, these results suggest that biotic self-organisation is a fundamental driver of sedimentary patterns on carbonate platforms. To our knowledge, this is the first quantitative comparison of morphometric patterns from the Modern and Palaeozoic that clearly reveals similar patterns of self-organisation. For the depositional environments considered, the findings suggest that juxtaposition rules, facies proportions and scaling relationships extracted from the Modern can successfully be applied to the ancient.


©2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.





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