Grain-size parameters derived from the mechanical analysis of acid-insoluble residues from mixed terrigenous-shell beach sediments from Auckland, New Zealand, are more effective for interpreting the depositional processes, and for characterizing the beach environment on textural scatter plots, than are parameters based on the analysis of the total beach samples. This results mainly from the wide variations in size of hydraulically equivalent skeletal carbonate grains in the sediment, especially in the coarser size grades, but may also be accentuated by the local origin and susceptibility to alteration of the shell material. Compared with the total sediment grain-size distribution, the insoluble residues from the beach deposits are characteristically finer-grained, better sorted, and more consistently coarse-skewed and leptokurtic.
The grain-size distribution characteristics of insoluble residues from several stratigraphic units in a sequence of Oligocene mixed terrigenous-skeletal shelf sediments in the South Auckland region distinguish depositional mechanisms and environmental energy levels for each unit that are consistent with interpretations made on the basis of carbonate petrography and palaeontology. With regard to the bulk content of terrigenous mud in the insoluble residues, the grain-size distribution of the fraction coarser than 4φ is alone diagnostic of the energy-time trends in these sediments.
The grain-size parameters of the acid-insoluble residues in modern and ancient mixed terrigenous-skeletal carbonate sediments may provide more reliable criteria for distinguishing and characterizing the depositional environment of these deposits than do the parameters obtained from the size distribution of the total grain population.