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Keywords:

  • Aragonite dissolution;
  • marine cement;
  • micrite;
  • non-tropical limestone;
  • unconformities

Large areas of southern Australia and New Zealand are covered by mid-Tertiary limestones formed in cool-water, shelf environments. The generally destructive character of sea-floor diagenesis in such settings precludes ubiquitous inorganic precipitation of carbonates, yet these limestones include occasional units with marine cements: (1) within rare in situ biomounds; (2) within some stacked, cross-bedded sand bodies; (3) at the top of metre-scale, subtidal, carbonate cycles; and (4) most commonly, associated with certain unconformities. The marine cements are dominated by isopachous rinds of fibrous to bladed spar, interstitial homogeneous micrite and interstitial micropeloidal micrite, often precipitated sequentially in that order. Internal sedimentation of microbioclastic micrite may occur at any stage. The paradox of marine-cemented limestone units in an overall destructive cool-water diagenetic regime may be explained by the precipitation of cement as intermediate Mg-calcite from marine waters undersaturated with respect to aragonite. In some of the marine-cemented limestones, aragonite biomoulds may include marine cement/sediment internally, suggesting that dissolution of aragonite can at times be wholly marine and not always involve meteoric influences. We suggest that marine cementation occurred preferentially, but not exclusively, during periods of relatively lowered sea level, probably glacio-eustatically driven in the mid-Tertiary. At times of reduced sea level, there was a relative increase in both the temperature and the carbonate saturation state of the shelf waters, and the locus of carbonate sedimentation shifted towards formerly deeper shelf sites, which now experienced increased swell wave and/or tidal energy levels, fostering sediment abrasion and reworking, reduced sedimentation rates and freer exchange of sediment pore-waters. Energy levels were probably also enhanced by increased upwelling of cold, deep waters onto the Southern Ocean margins of the Australasian carbonate platforms, where water-mass mixing, warming and loss of CO2 locally maintained critical levels of carbonate saturation for sea-floor cement precipitation and promoted the phosphate-glauconite mineralization associated with some of the marine-cemented limestone units.