Pre-vegetation alluvial fan facies and processes: an example from the Cambro-Ordovician Rozel Conglomerate Formation, Jersey, Channel Islands

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Abstract

Prior to the Silurian a lack of land vegetation is expected to have influenced the processes of sedimentation on alluvial fans, principally by causing increased rates of run-off and erosion in the fan catchments. In the Cambro-Ordovician Rozel Conglomerate Formation, this effect was central to the generation of alluvial fan deposits that are unusually deficient in sand and clay, despite being sourced from a catchment dominated by sandstone and mudstone. Seven facies are identified, interpreted as representing the deposits of: (i) shallow stream and sheetfloods, (ii) channelized, non-cohesive debrisflows, (iii) sub-aerial mud-rich debrisflows, (iv) sub-aqueous mud-rich debrisflows, (v) low energy streams that reworked abandoned fan sectors, (vi) a sandflat-playa lake system and (vii) talus slopes. The first two facies are both clast-supported conglomerate, comprise 98% of the deposit, and represent deposition on active depositional lobes and in the fan head trench. The remaining facies are the products of infrequent sedimentary processes, fan abandonment processes and marginal sub-environments. The facies assemblage in many ways mimics that of a modern-day, water-lain, arid region fan. However, the palaeolatitude of these fans was high and the climate is inferred to have been cool and wet. The near absence of sandstone and mudstone beds with few mudflows is ascribed to rapid hinterland uplift and high rates of erosion resulting in minimal chemical breakdown of source rocks in the catchments. Such high rates of erosion are in turn ascribed to a combination of frequent rainstorms and an absence of vegetation cover.

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