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ABSTRACT

Tectono-stratigraphic models of foredeep sedimentation have generally presumed a direct link between changing rates of tectonism and concomitant sedimentological response as manifested by change in thickness, composition or depositional environment of sediment accumulating in adjacent basins. Lacustrine limestone units within the early Cretaceous fluvial/lacustrine Gannett Group of western Wyoming exhibit systematic variation in several geochemical proxies of relative rates of precipitation and evaporation, indicating that lakewater chemistry was controlled by variation in regional climate.

Change in proportion of allochthonous terrigenous clastic vs. autochthonous carbonate deposition, as well as carbonate Mg/Ca ratio and stable isotopic composition, occurs at two scales. Metre-scale alternation of micritic limestone and argillaceous marl is accompanied by mineralogical and isotopic variation within individual beds, indicating preferential carbonate accumulation during intervals of decreased regional meteoric precipitation relative to lake-surface evaporation. Limestone deposition began during intervals of maximum aridity, and decreased as increased meteoric precipitation-driven flux of terrigenous clastic sediment overwhelmed sites of carbonate accumulation. Similar upsection variation in limestone mineralogy and isotopic composition at a scale of tens of metres reflects the multiple processes of long-term increase in meteoric precipitation and lakewater freshening prior to influx of terrigenous sediment, across-basin fluvial-deltaic progradation, and renewed accumulation of riverine terrigenous units. Such trends suggest that formation-scale alternation between fluvial clastic and lacustrine carbonate deposition was controlled by climate change.