Mass transport in European Cretaceous chalk; fabric criteria for its recognition



Although it is a pelagic sediment, fine-grained calcareous ooze may be mobilized prior to general lithification and redeposited as allochthonous units. Numerous occurrences of allochthonous chalk have been reported in recent years, having been recognized by large-scale bedding features seen in outcrop. Smaller-scale internal features, such as contorted laminae, and larger features, such as smeared burrows and imbricated flint nodules, attest to a significant amount of soft-sediment deformation and synsedimentary slumping in European chalk sections of Late Cretaceous age.

Truly autochthonous chalks contain complex, tiered ichnofabrics and in some cases exhibit a diagenetic nodular fabric that is undisturbed by transport. In some situations, such as stagnant water conditions, autochthonous chalks may exhibit primary lamination, although this is very uncommon in European chalk sequences.

Different types of redepositional processes produce an array of varied allochthonous fabrics. Glide and slump units, for example, contain internal deformational features produced during sliding. Ooze flow causes plastic deformation of chalk units, internally as well as externally. Resuspension and fluid flow of chalk sediment produces a deposit having a totally new fabric, such as a conglomerate composed of detrital chalk clasts.

In this paper, typical macroscopic, sedimentary fabric types are illustrated, and the means of identifying them are discussed in terms of bioturbation features, in situ diagenetic nodules versus detrital clasts, physical deformation structures and development of flints.