Milankovitch cyclicity in Purbeck peritidal limestones of the Prebetic (Berriasian, southern Spain)



Peritidal carbonate rocks (Purbeck facies) of the uppermost Portlandian to Berriasian in the type section of the Sierra del Pozo Formation in the Prebetic Zone, southern Spain, are divisible into 141 shallowing upward cycles averaging 2 m in thickness. The subtidal facies in these cycles consist of micritic or marly limestones with dasycladacean algae and lituolids; the intertidal facies are micritic limestones containing birdseyes and miliolids; the supratidal facies comprise laminated algal limestones, the tops of which display desiccation cracks and rhizocretions, or more locally palaeosols, calcretes, or palaeokarst surfaces.

A statistical study, using power spectra of the Fast Fourier Transform, demonstrates that the periodicity of these cycles is in the Milankovitch frequency band. Most sedimentary cycles correspond to the obliquity cycles; eccentricity and precession cycles have also been recognized. Using a Fischer plot, third-order tectono-eustatic cycles are recognized, which can be correlated with the eustatic curve of the Exxon chart.

The shallowing upward sequences are characterized by a distinctive pattern of geochemical parameters. Carbon and oxygen isotopic (δ13C and δ18O) variations, calcium and magnesium carbonate contents and the abundance of organic matter and trace elements (Mn and Sr) all have predictable patterns of distribution within the sequences. The Sr content of the subtidal facies is relatively high whereas the δ13C and δ18O ratios are quite low; in the intertidal facies the Sr and Mn levels fall concomitantly with a rise in δ13C and δ18O. The highest δ13C and δ18O values occur in the lower part of the supratidal facies, whereas in the upper part of δ values and Sr contents drop sharply.

Cyclic variations in evaporation and in meteoric water influence, determined from oxygen isotopic composition, reveal that the cyclicity of the beds containing the most limestones (supratidal) and those with the most marls (subtidal) is related to climatic changes. The coldest periods are those represented by supratidal deposits, when the sea level was at its lowest. During the warmest periods, when the overall sea level was higher, subtidal deposits accumulated in the region.

A genetic model is proposed, according to which the asymmetrical sedimentary cycles occur in response to glacio-eustatic changes with a periodicity similar to that of Plio-Pleistocene sea-level variations, but with a much lower range due to the smaller extent of polar ice caps during the Early Cretaceous. The glacio-eustatic changes involved a rapid sea-level rise and a slow sea-level fall.