Triassic carbonate buildup flanks in the Dolomites, northern Italy: breccias, boulder fabric and the importance of early diagenesis



The flanks of Middle Triassic carbonate buildups in the Dolomites show well-developed clinostratification, with typical angles of 30–40°. This paper focuses on the metre-scale fabric of these clinoforms and sets these within the context of their large-scale and microscopic features. Clinoform stratification is caused by fibrous cement crusts, by stylolites paralleling a vague stratification and by pelagic limestone interbedded with the lower portions of the clinoforms. These parts of the clinoforms locally exhibit a boulder fabric. A fracture system, subvertical to clinostratification, is filled by fibrous cements and marine internal sediment. The analysis of clinoform fabric indicates that parts consist of in situ automicrite. Other parts of the clinoforms are made up of breccia. The breccias occur as isolated pockets and lenses with random orientation and dimensions ranging from a few square decimetres to hundreds of square metres. The breccias have gradual contacts with the unbrecciated host rock. Breccia components are mostly angular, show a microfacies similar to that of the unbrecciated host rock and are composed of millimetre- to decimetre-sized particles that generally float in radiaxial-fibrous cement. Matching grain boundaries are common. Calcite cement typically makes up 20 and 40 vol.% of the brecciated areas. Clinostratification, the fracture system, brecciation and boulder fabric point to gravity induced deformation of in situ flank deposits rather than gravity induced depositional processes. Brecciation appears to result from translational sliding (millimetres to metres) on the steep buildup flanks, which caused fracturing of the vaguely stratified automicrite, followed by displacive growth of fibrous cement. Cementation occurred in a (shallow) burial, marine phreatic environment, because cement clasts are virtually absent from the flank-derived gravity flows in the adjoining basinal sediments. Displacive cement growth indicates a volume increase of the clinoforms during diagenesis of up to 20–40 vol.% and can account for the local drag of buildup interior limestones. Similarly, the boulder fabric appears to be a diagenetic feature, which resulted from differential settling of incompletely lithified boundstone and grainstone, and the interbedded pelagic limestone.