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Keywords:

  • England;
  • lacustrine;
  • Late Triassic;
  • oolite;
  • palaeoclimate

High energy, lake-shoreline carbonate sequences are rarely documented in the geological record. However, one example occurs in the Upper Triassic Mercia Mudstone Group (MMG) of southern Britain. The MMG is one of a number of thick, non-fossiliferous mudstone deposits associated with North Atlantic Mesozoic rift basins. The origin of the MMG mudstones is the subject of current debate, with marine, playa-lacustrine and alluvial–aeolian models having been proposed. Shoreline features have been documented from the northern margin of the basin, but the rarity of such features elsewhere in the MMG has led many workers to doubt a lacustrine origin for the mudstones. Wave-dominated, lake-shoreline deposits have been recognized in several sections from the southern basin margin in the Clevedon area of the Bristol Channel in south-west England. These deposits provide evidence for the development of a sizeable perennial to semi-perennial hypersaline lake in which the MMG mudstones accumulated. Shoreline sediments overlie alluvial stream and sheet-flood deposits, and pass from transgressive gravel–conglomerate beach units with bioclasts, influenced by shore-normal waves (deposited under semi-humid conditions), to lower gradient, highstand oolitic sands affected by more varied wave approach (deposited under progressively more arid conditions), which culminated in lowstand, oolitic strand-plain deposits overlain by a playa-mudflat unit. Shoreline deposits record a simple shallowing-upward transgressive–highstand–lowstand sequence. However, a change from a reflective (transgressive) to dissipative (highstand) shoreline is believed to represent a climatically induced change in prevailing wind direction. Shoreline features recognized in the MMG are similar to those of recent playa-lacustrine basins of the western United States. Ooids display a variety of size, fracture and dissolution features in addition to beachrock fabrics, suggesting that they were originally composed of radial aragonite, similar to modern ooids from the Great Salt Lake, Utah.