Quantitative appraisal of compaction strain is essential for the study of the burial history of shales in sedimentary basins. The results of a preliminary fabric analysis of Westphalian and Zechstein shales in the Campine Basin (Belgium) show that clay fabric analysis, using an X-ray pole figure goniometer, is suitable for this purpose.
Clay fabrics, in the range studied, are independent of depth and therefore cannot be used as depth indicators. This suggests that in the early stages of the burial history a stable clay fabric has to develop, which will basically remain unchanged during the subsequent burial history.
The degree of clay particle preferred orientation not only reflects the compaction strain, but is also determined by mineralogical parameters: the presence of non-platy particles and the relative concentrations of the different clay minerals. This degree of preferred orientation furthermore determines the degree of fissility of the shales.
These mineralogical factors limit the use of clay fabrics as truly quantitative strain markers. Their use as semi-quantitative strain markers remains advantageous, mainly because of the common occurrence of clay fabrics in the geological record. Moreover, the relative ease of measurement and the possibility of distinguishing compaction from tectonic strains favour the use of clay fabrics in the quantitative strain analysis of argillaceous rocks.