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ABSTRACT

More than 20 examples of fossil carbonate platform systems were compared for slope angle and sediment fabric. Plots of slope angle versus sediment fabric show that grainy, non-cohesive, mud-free sediments build steeper slopes than muddy, cohesive, sediments. Examples near the end-members of grainy and muddy carbonate platform flanks are found in the Triassic of the Dolomites in northern Italy and in the Bahamas, respectively. They document the flank geometry and the processes readjusting the slope profile once the limiting slope angle is exceeded. The grainy flank sediments in the Dolomites, modified by shearing and avalanching, produce straight slope profiles with declivities up to 35°, whereas the muddy Bahamian flank sediments, modified by large-scale creep and rotational to translational sliding and slumping, produce a concave-upwards slope profile, inclined at less than 4°. The comparison between slope angle and sediment fabric indicates that the physical behaviour of sediments in the gravity field, angle of shearing and mode of readjustment processes, is linked to the composition of the slope sediment. Among the variables such as sea-level, subsidence, climate, plate motion and oceanographic setting (windward-leeward), sediment fabric is suggested to be a major, if not the major control on slope angle and slope curvature of carbonate platform flanks. Besides the recently documented tendency of carbonate sediments to build steeper slopes than siliciclastics, this proposed relation sheds new light on the analysis and quantification of the variables influencing the geometry and depositional evolution of carbonate systems. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to deduce sediment composition from seismic lines and predict lithology prior to drilling.