Carbonate petrography as an indicator of climate and sea-level changes: new data from Bahamian Quaternary units



Coeval stratigraphic units of similar petrology occur throughout the northern Bahamas islands. The petrographic composition of these limestones provides clues about regional sea level and climate changes during the late Quaternary. At least eight fossil shoreline units, which are linked to transgressive episodes between the middle Pleistocene and the late Holocene, are recognized in the Bahamas. The petrographic composition of these units is either dominated by ooids and peloids or by bioclasts. Sedimentological observations demonstrate that oolitic-peloidal units were formed when sea level was higher than today, whereas skeletal units were deposited at or below modern ordnance datum. Skeletal units may reflect times of partial, or modest platform flooding, when the bulk of sediments brought to islands originates from bank-margin reefs. In contrast, oolitic-peloidal units correspond to major flooding events and active water circulation on the bank top. Cement fabrics further show that the early diagenesis of oolitic units took place during warm and humid climatic conditions, whereas skeletal rock bodies underwent subaerial diagenesis during drier climatic conditions characterized by marked seasonal changes. This example from the Bahamas suggests that compositional analysis of limestone from fossil carbonate platforms could be used for resolving ancient climate and sea-level changes.