Anatomy and evolution of a Lower Cretaceous alluvial plain: sedimentology and palaeosols in the upper Blairmore Group, south-western Alberta, Canada

Authors

  • PAUL J. MCCARTHY,

    1. Department of Land Resource Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G2 2W1 [E-mail: pmccarth@julian.uwo.ca. E-mail: pmartini@uoguelph.ca.]
    Search for more papers by this author
  • I. PETER MARTINI,

    1. Department of Land Resource Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G2 2W1 [E-mail: pmccarth@julian.uwo.ca. E-mail: pmartini@uoguelph.ca.]
    Search for more papers by this author
  • DALE A. LECKIE

    1. Institute of Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology, Geological Survey of Canada, 3303–33rd St., N. W. Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2W 2A7 [E-mail: leckie@gsc.nrcan.gc.ca.]
    Search for more papers by this author

ABSTRACT

The Lower Cretaceous (Albian) upper Blairmore Group is part of a thick clastic wedge that formed adjacent to the rising Cordillera in south-western Alberta. Regional transgressive intervals are superimposed on the overall regressive succession. Alluvial conglomerates, sandstones and mudstones were deposited in east-north-eastward draining fluvial systems, orientated transverse to the basin axis. Five facies associations have been identified: igneous pebble conglomerate, thick sandstone, interbedded lenticular sandstone and mudstone, thick mudstone with thin sandstone interlayers, and fossiliferous sandstone and mudstone. The facies associations are interpreted as gravelly fluvial channels, sandy fluvial channels, sand-dominated floodplains, mud-dominated floodplains, and marine shoreline deposits, respectively.

Five types of palaeosols are recognized in the upper Blairmore Group based on lithology, the presence of pedogenic features (clay coatings, root traces, ferruginous nodules, slickensides, carbonate nodules) and degree of horizonization. The regional distribution of the various types of palaeosols enables a refinement of the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction permitting an assessment of the controls on floodplain evolution. In source-proximal areas, palaeosol development was inhibited by high rates of sedimentation. In source-distal locations, poor drainage resulting from high watertables, low topography and lower rates of sedimentation also inhibited palaeosol development. The best-developed palaeosols (containing Bt horizons) occur in intermediate alluvial plain positions (tectonic hinge zone) where the floodplains were most stable due to a balance between sedimentation, erosion and subsidence rates. Extrapolating from the upper Blairmore Group suggests that the tectonic hinge zone of continental foreland basins can be established by palaeosol analysis. At the hinge zone, soil development is controlled primarily by climate and tectonics and their effect on sediment supply, whereas closer to the palaeoshoreline, relative sea level fluctuations, resulting in poor drainage, may have a more significant influence.

Ancillary