Early submarine cementation in fore-reef carbonate sediments, Barbados, West Indies



Bottom sediments from the sea floor west of Barbados between depths of 110 and 324 m are composed of nodular or crusted carbonate deposits. Individual biogenic sediment grains and the cemented aggregates, nodules and crusts are usually more or less altered by bioerosion and may support one or more generations of encrusting organisms.

On the basis of component analysis of the topmost part of the bottom sediments it is possible to recognize three facies: (1) a proximal slope facies down to a depth of about 140 m, rich in mollusc fragments, benthic foraminifera and bryozoans; (2) an upper distal slope facies between about 140 m and about 215 m, rich in benthic foraminifera, molluses and crustaceans; and (3) a lower distal slope facies from about 215 m to at least 300 m, dominated by molluscs, especially pelecypods, with subordinate scleractinians and tubes of the polychaete Lygdamus asteriformis.

The appearance and quantitative importance of the cemented aggregates is also related to these facles. In the proximal slope facies, only relatively few irregular and very porous nodules are found, whereas in the lower distal slope facies, aggregates are very common. Most aggregates are crust-like with a smooth upper surface and a more or less irregular, knobby lower surface. The crusts are massive compared with the nodules of the proximal slope facies and, unlike the latter, the lower surfaces and walls of larger cavities are usually coated with Fe and/or Mn oxides. In the upper distal slope facies a gradual transition between the two types of aggregates is found.

Petrographical and morphological evidence, together with carbon and oxygen isotopic data, indicates that the nodules and crusts were formed in situ by submarine lithification processes. Radiocarbon dating of two bulk samples suggests that the cementation took place during late Pleistocene and/or early Holocene.