Unravelling the influence of water depth and wave energy on the facies diversity of shelf carbonates

Sam Purkis, Gwilym P. Rowlands, Jeremy M. Kerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Carbonate sequence stratigraphy is founded on the principle that changes in relative sea-level are recorded in the rock record by the accumulation of sediment with relative water depth-dependent attributes. While at the scale of a shelf to basin transect, facies clearly arrange by water depth, the relation blurs for depths <40 m, the most vigorous zone of carbonate production. The reason for this change in behaviour is two-fold. Firstly, in shallow water, the intrinsic processes of storm and wave reworking influence the seabed through submarine erosion and sediment redistribution. Secondly, facies diversity tends to be greater in shallow water than deep water because of a greater diversity in grain producers. Remote sensing imagery, field observations and hydrodynamic models for two reef-rimmed shore-attached carbonate platforms in the Red Sea show neither water depth nor energy regime to be reliable indicators of facies type when considered in isolation. Considered together, however, the predictive power of the two variables rises significantly. The results demonstrate it to be an oversimplification to assume a direct link between palaeo-water depth and depositional diversity of subtidal lithofacies, while highlighting the importance of hydrodynamics in directing the accumulation of carbonate sediments in the shallow photic zone. While the size distributions of facies extents in the two focus areas follow power laws, no direct relation between the lateral continuity of the facies belts and water depth or wave height is reported. The work is relevant for the interpretation of metre-scale subtidal carbonate cycles throughout the geological record by demonstrating how caution must be applied when inferring palaeo-water depths from depositional facies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-565
Number of pages25
JournalSedimentology
Volume62
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

water wave
wave energy
water depth
carbonate
shallow water
hydrodynamics
photic zone
carbonate sediment
sequence stratigraphy
geological record
wave height
carbonate platform
lithofacies
reworking
sediment
power law
reef
imagery
transect
deep water

Keywords

  • GIS
  • Depositional facies
  • Entropy
  • Red Sea
  • Water depth
  • Wave regime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy

Cite this

Unravelling the influence of water depth and wave energy on the facies diversity of shelf carbonates. / Purkis, Sam; Rowlands, Gwilym P.; Kerr, Jeremy M.

In: Sedimentology, Vol. 62, No. 2, 01.01.2015, p. 541-565.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Purkis, Sam ; Rowlands, Gwilym P. ; Kerr, Jeremy M. / Unravelling the influence of water depth and wave energy on the facies diversity of shelf carbonates. In: Sedimentology. 2015 ; Vol. 62, No. 2. pp. 541-565.
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