Spatial self-organization in carbonate depositional environments

Sam J. Purkis, JOHAN VAN DE Koppel, Peter M. Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Spatial self-organization, the process where coherent spatial patterns emerge through internal interactions, is widely observed in modern natural systems. Compelling examples range from ripple and dune formation in aquatic and terrestrial systems to formation of patterned coral reefs and vegetation in arid regions. Despite this wide range of contemporary cases, the concept of self-organization and its potential effects on geological patterns have not yet been widely discussed by the geological community, especially in carbonate depositional systems. We present four case studies from modern bivalve beds, coral reefs, microbial carbonates, and tidal channels, and one from the rock record considering carbonate cyclicity, where spatial self-organization could explain regularity in preserved strata. Only two of these five case studies, bivalve beds and tidal channel systems, are accompanied by a firm understanding of the mechanisms that generate emergent patterning. Three types of ecosystem spatial self-organization—scale-dependent feedback creating regular patterns, criticality behavior causing scale-free patterns, and oscillating consumer resource interactions causing consumer waves—are well documented. The first two of those appear to hold most relevance for carbonate depositional environments. Considerable work remains to understand the processes and products of spatial self-organization in carbonate deposystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-66
Number of pages14
JournalSEPM Special Publications
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Autogenic
  • Carbonate sediments
  • Emergent pattern
  • Sedimentary record
  • Spatial self-organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial self-organization in carbonate depositional environments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this