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An epeiric ramp: low-energy, cool-water carbonate facies in a Tertiary inland sea, Murray Basin, South Australia



The Murray Supergroup records temperate-water carbonate deposition within a shallow, mesotrophic, Oligo-Miocene inland sea protected from high-energy waves and swells of the open ocean by a granitic archipelago at its southern margin. Rocks are very well preserved and exposed in nearly continuous outcrop along the River Murray in South Australia. Most facies are rich in carbonate silt, contain a background assemblage of gastropods (especially turritellids) and infaunal bivalves, and are packaged on a decimetre-scale defined by firmground and hardground omission surfaces. Bioturbation is pervasive and overprinted, resulting in rare preservation of physical sedimentary structures. Facies are grouped into four associations (large foraminiferan–bryozoan, echinoid–bryozoan, mollusc and clay facies) interpreted to represent shallow-water (<50 m) deposition under progressively higher trophic resource levels (from low mesotrophy to eutrophy), and restricted marine conditions from relatively offshore to nearshore regions. A large-scale shift from high- to low-mesotrophic conditions within lower Miocene strata reflects a change in climate from wet to seasonally dry conditions and highlights the influence terrestrially derived nutrients had upon this shallow, land-locked sea. Overall, low trophic resource levels during periods of seasonally dry climate resulted in a deepening of the euphotic zone, a widespread proliferation of foraminiferan photozoan fauna and a relatively high carbonate productivity. Inshore, heterozoan facies became progressively muddier and restricted towards the shoreline. In contrast, periods of wet climate led to rising trophic resource levels, resulting in a shallowing of the euphotic zone, a decrease in epifaunal and seagrass cover and widespread development of a mostly heterozoan biota dominated by infaunal echinoids. Rates of carbonate production and accumulation were relatively low. The Murray Basin is best described as an epeiric ramp. Wide facies belts developed in a shallow sea on a low-angled slope reaching many hundreds of kilometres in length. Grainy shoal and back-barrier facies were absent. Internally generated waves impinged the sea floor in offshore regions and, because of friction along a wide and shallow sea floor, created a low-energy expanse of waters across the proximal ramp. Storms were the dominating depositional process capable of disrupting the entire sea floor.