Purbeckian (lowermost Cretaceous) peritidal carbonates are characterized by open marine, lagoonal, intertidal and lacustrine facies arranged in Milankovitch-type shallowing upward sequences. Shallowing upward sequences typically consist of 2–6 individual beds. The sequences may be (i) complete, (ii) incomplete or (ii) pedogenetically overprinted, reflecting the duration of subaerial exposure and/or the extent of erosion and pedogenetic modification at the cycle tops.

The stable isotopic composition of the peritidal micrites reveals homogenous δ18O values attributed to diagenetic stabilization in a meteoric, water-buffered system. Carbon isotopes show three distinctly different carbon isotope patterns dependent on the completeness of the shallowing upward sequences. Complete shallowing upward sequences consist of 4–6 individual carbonate beds. The carbon isotope values show a facies-dependent pattern: open marine carbonate muds record enriched δ13C values of +0·28‰ while lagoonal (−0·82‰), intertidal (−2·46‰) and lacustrine micrites (−2·96‰) are increasingly depleted. This distinct pattern is explained by carbonate mud deposition in environments of differing salinity and marine influence. Incomplete sequences (2–5 carbonate beds) are characterized by depleted δ13C values below subaerial exposure surfaces that become progressively enriched in 13C with increasing depth. Pedogenetically overprinted sequences (1–3 carbonate beds) show strong 13C depletion throughout the sequence with little variation in the carbon isotopic composition. The depleted values (−4·5‰) of the pedogenetically altered micrites suggest that modification during subaerial exposure was associated with equilibration with meteoric solutions enriched in isotopically light soil gas CO2.

The duration of subaerial exposure is the most crucial factor determining the extent of pedogenetic alterations, the completeness of the shallowing upward sequences and the carbon isotope pattern. The recorded patterns clearly illustrate that micrites have a good potential for the preservation of their primary carbon isotopic composition if the duration of subaerial exposure is rather brief. Otherwise, the recorded carbon isotope patterns may support sequence stratigraphic analysis by providing a refinement of the time-stratigraphic interpretation.