Interaction between aeolian, fluvial and playa environments in the Permian Upper Rotliegend Group, UK southern North Sea



The Permian Upper Rotliegend Group in offshore UK Quadrants 42, 43, 47 and 48 comprises a sequence of mixed aeolian/fluvial/playa deposits. These deposits are up to 300 m thick and contain a record of the interaction between desert fluvial systems and adjacent aeolian and playa environments. The relative dominance of water vs. wind transport and deposition in this stratigraphic package was a function of fluctuations in the discharge of ephemeral fluvial systems and changes in water table/playa level driven by a combination of climatic change and syndepositional tectonics. The Rotliegend sedimentary record is punctuated by numerous surfaces recording erosion by wind and water. The origin of these surfaces is mostly climatic, with periods of increased runoff resulting in fluvial incision, especially near active faults. During periods of reduced runoff, wind erosion of fluvial deposits occurred, with fluvially derived sand being reworked into expanding aeolian dune fields. Wind erosion also occurred as a rising water table isolated dunes from their sediment supply, resulting in deflation of dunes down to the water table. These surfaces formed in a basin that was subsiding. Thus, even in a background of overall increasing accommodation space, climatically driven falls in the water table allowed for periods of erosion. The occurrence of significant erosion, especially near syndepositional fault zones, resulted in a sedimentary record that shows pronounced lateral as well as vertical facies variations.