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Abstract

This paper develops a tectono-stratigraphic model for the evolution and drowning of Early Jurassic carbonate platforms. The model arises from outcrop analysis and Sr isotope dating of successions exposed in the Betic Cordillera in southeastern Spain. Here, an extensive Early Jurassic (Sinemurian) carbonate platform developed on the rifted Tethyan margin of the Iberian Plate. The platform was dissected by extensional faults in early jamesoni times (ca. 191 Ma) and again in late ibex times (ca.188 Ma) during the Pliensbachian stage. Extensional faults and fault block rotation are shown to control the formation of three sequence boundaries that divide the platform stratigraphy (the Gavilan Formation) into three depositional sequences. The last sequence boundary marks localised drowning of the platform and deposition of the deeper water Zegri Formation, whereas adjacent platforms remain exposed or continue as the site of shallow-marine sediment accumulation. This study is based on mapping, facies analysis and dating of platform carbonates exposed in three tectonic units within the zone: Gabar, Ponce and Canteras. Facies analysis leads to the recognition of facies associations deposited in carbonate ramp environments and adjacent to synsedimentary, marine, fault scarps. Sr isotope dating enables us to correlate platform-top carbonates from the different tectonic units at a precision equivalent to ammonite zones. A sequence stratigraphic analysis of sections from the three tectonic units is carried out using the facies models together with the Sr isotope dates. This analysis indicates a clear tectonic control on the development of the stratigraphy: depositional sequences vary in thickness, have wedge-shaped geometries and vary in facies, internal geometries and systems tracts from one tectonic unit to another. Criteria characterising depositional sequences and sequence boundaries from the Gabar and Ponce units are used to establish a tectono-stratigraphic model for carbonate platform depositional sequences and sequence boundaries in maritime rifts, which can be applied to other less well-exposed or subsurface successions from other sedimentary basins. Onlapping transgressive and progradational highstand systems tracts are recognised on dip slope ramps. Falling stage and lowstand systems tracts are developed as thick breccia units in hangingwall areas adjacent to extensional faults. Sequence boundaries vary in character, amplitude and/or duration of sea-level fall and persistence across the area. Some boundaries coalesce onto the Canteras unit, which remained as a relatively positive area throughout the early Pliensbachian (Carixian). The carbonate platform on the Ponce tectonic unit drowned in the latest Carixian (davoei biozone). However, the adjacent tectonic units remained emergent and developed a long-lived sequence boundary, indicating tectonic subsidence as the major cause for platform drowning. The stratigraphic evolution of this area on the rifted southern Iberian margin indicates that a widespread restricted shallow-water carbonate platform environment accumulating peritidal carbonates evolved with faulting to a more open-marine setting. Sr dating indicates that this transition took place around the Sinemurian–Pliesbachian boundary and it was driven by local fault-related subsidence together with likely post-faulting regional subsidence.