Reef Fabrics, biotic crusts and syndepositional cements of the Latemar reef margin (Middle Triassic), northern Italy



The Latemar reef buildup of the central Dolomites (northern Italy) provides a rare opportunity to examine an in-place Middle Triassic (Upper Anisian to Lower Ladinian) platform margin that is not strongly deformed or dolomitized. The margin lies between the flat lying platform interior and steeply dipping foreslope clinoforms. Across this transition, the depositional profile relates directly to a consistent lateral facies pattern: (1) restricted-biota grainstone of the platform interior, (2) ‘Tubiphytes’-rich boundstone and (3) diverse-biota grainstone that grades into (4) foreslope breccia beds. The boundstone and diverse-biota grainstone facies comprise the platform margin.

The boundstone facies consists of a framework of small (< 10 cm) skeletal remains (< 10% by volume) with associated biotic crusts, internal sediments and syndepositional cements. Crusts and cements constitute most of the rock volume and created the boundstone fabric. Biotic crusts exhibit gravity-defying geometries and range from a light grey, ‘structure grumeleuse’ rind to dark grey, micritic laminae. Both cements and biotic crusts occur as redeposited talus in the foreslope talus deposits, indicating a syndepositional origin.

The diverse-biota grainstone facies primarily consists of skeletal-peloidal grainstone with a diverse open marine biotic assemblage, in contrast to the restricted biota grainstones of the platform interior that have a low diversity, restricted marine biota. Metre scale hexacoral boundstone and centimetre-scale sponge boundstone and microbial boundstone occur as isolated patches (tens to hundreds of metres apart) within the diverse-biota grainstone facies.

The depositional profile, facies zonation and biotic constituents all indicate that the Latemar buildup had a shallow water reef margin, in contrast to previous interpretations that these were upper slope reefs. The syndepositional biotic crusts and inorganic cementation played key roles in stabilizing the boundstone fabric to form a wave-resistant reef fabric.