Transgressive facies in the South Munster Basin, Ireland



This paper describes the sedimentation style associated with the basal Carboniferous transgression in southern Ireland and the influence which this event had on the palaeogeography of the region. The transgression as marked by the base of the Carboniferous succession is shown to represent one of several genetically related transgressive pulses which commenced during the Late Devonian. At this time an east-west trending graben, the South Munster Basin, developed in southern Ireland. This was initially a non-marine depositional site in which sediment was derived from the north and west. Subsidence and eustatic sea-level rise resulted in a marine transgression which proceeded in a rhythmic style resulting in a number of transgressive-stillstand pulses. The first transgressive pulse (T1) advanced in a westerly direction along the basin axis resulting in the development of an epicontinental-like sea. The shoreline remained essentially static along the northern basin margin initially until a second transgressive pulse (T2) resulted in expansion of the marine area. The latter proceeded by gradual northward erosive advance of a barred coastal area as far as the northern basin margin where the stability of the bounding platform halted its progress. Erosion of the barrier shoreface was insufficient to destroy all the backbarrier lagoonal deposits which are preserved as a thin transgressive diachronous unit which grades northwards to a coastal alluvial plain.

Immediately preceding the basal Carboniferous transgression (T3), a shallow, wave-dominated, storm-influenced shelf sea occupied the basinal area. Two sublittoral sand bar complexes developed on the shelf under the influence of shore-parallel current regimes, apparently derived from source areas located on either side of the epicontinental sea

The basal Carboniferous transgression took place in two pulses. The first (T3a) resulted in a rapid reduction in sand supply to the shelf and deposition of clay. The barrier shoreline responded by erosively retreating across the lagoon, leaving a transgressive lag in its wake. Its northwards advance was, however, limited due to the relative stability of the northern platform. Sand supply to the shelf was completely terminated in the second pulse (T3b) and the barrier rapidly migrated erosively across the northern platform for a considerable distance such that the coastal plain is overlain by a thin transgressive lag. This transgressive phase was immediately followed by shoreline stillstand and progressive shallowing of the shelf. An open sandy shelf developed on which offshore sand bars accumulated under a storm and wave dominated regime. Clay deposition continued in the deeper part of the basinal area but was eventually terminated as the shelf sands prograded centripetally into the basin.

The main factor that controlled the style of the overall transgression was an interplay between eustatic sea level rise and basin subsidence. The rate of relative sea-level rise together with the effect of differential subsidence and fluvial input from the north appear to have diminished with time. The rate at which successive transgressive pulses advanced northwards shows an overall progressive increase.