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Sedimentary organic matter in condensed sections from distal oxic environments: examples from the Mesozoic of SE France



A detailed analysis of sedimentary organic matter (or palynofacies) was carried out on thermally immature to early mature Upper Jurassic and Hauterivian condensed intervals in deep-sea carbonate–marl alternations outcropping in the Vocontian Basin (SE France). All the condensed sections studied are characterized by intense bioturbation and very low organic carbon content (< 0·25 wt.%), indicative of oxic depositional conditions.

Oxic condensed sections display variable palynofacies signatures, which are best illustrated by: (1) the ratio of continental to marine constituents; (2) the ratio of opaque to translucent phytoclasts (i.e. woody debris) and (3) the preservation of palynomorphs (based on fluorescence intensity and morphological preservation state in transmitted light microscopy). Both of the ratios increase with the degree of palynomorph degradation, which shows that phytoclasts, especially the opaque ones, become relatively concentrated in the most degraded facies. These observations lead to the classification of oxic condensed sections into three organic facies types showing different degrees of preservation and palynofacies signatures. Type 1 organic facies display intense degradation and are characterized by high values of the ratio of continental to marine fraction. They record unfavourable depositional environments for preservation of organic matter. Type 2 organic facies are most common and are characterized by a decreasing value of the ratio of continental to marine fraction. Type 3 organic facies display the same trend of the ratio of continental to marine fraction as type 2, but the palynomorph assemblage is better preserved. Type 1 and type 3 organic facies are relatively rare.

Recognizing these organic facies types is important when analysing the relationship between sedimentary organic matter and sequence stratigraphy, because it allows the use of the appropriate palynofacies parameters. In particular, the use of the ratio of continental to marine constituents, usually a very good indicator of regressive–transgressive trends, becomes questionable in highly degraded intervals. Moreover, distinguishing between well-preserved or highly degraded palynofacies in condensed intervals provides valuable information on the oxicity of the depositional environment.