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The influence of salt withdrawal subsidence on palaeosol maturity and cyclic fluvial deposition in the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation: Castle Valley, Utah



Integrated fluvial sequence stratigraphic and palaeosol analysis can be used to better reconstruct depositional systems, but these approaches have not been combined to examine halokinetic minibasins. This study characterizes the temporal and spatial patterns of lithofacies and palaeosols in a sequence stratigraphic framework to reconstruct a model of minibasin evolution and identify halokinetic influences on fluvial deposition. This research documents fluvial cycles and stratigraphic hierarchy, palaeosol maturity and apparent sediment accumulation rates in the Chinle Formation within the Big Bend minibasin. This study also uses palaeosols to help identify fluvial aggradational cycle (FAC) sets. The Chinle is divided into two hectometre-scale (102 m) fluvial sequences, six decametre-scale (101 m) FAC sets, and variable numbers of metre-scale FACs depending on proximity to the minibasin. Ten pedotypes representing 225 palaeosol profiles are recognized. The pedotypes include palaeosols similar to modern Entisols, Inceptisols, Aridisols, Vertisols and Alfisols. A maturity index (1–5) is assigned to each pedotype to assess its variability in palaeosol development. Estimated palaeosol development time is used to approximate apparent sediment accumulation rates. Increased subsidence resulted in a greater number and thicker FACs, thicker FAC sets and fluvial sequence sections, and lithofacies associations reflecting more rapid sedimentation along the minibasin axis. Palaeocurrent indicators converge towards the minibasin axis and indicate that it formed and drifted through time. Relative palaeosol maturity is inversely related to stratal thickness, and decreases towards the minibasin where episodic burial by fluvial sediment was more frequent. Metre-scale FACs are most abundant towards the minibasin axis, and locally have Entisols and Inceptisols developed upon their upper boundaries reflecting increased sediment accumulation rates. Areas outside the minibasin are characterized by fewer FACs that are associated with more mature palaeosols. Palaeosol-derived apparent sediment accumulation rates are as much as two orders of magnitude greater within the minibasin than in marginal areas. The combined stratigraphic, palaeocurrent and palaeosol evidence is used to develop a model for the evolution of the Big Bend minibasin that illustrates the halokinetic affect on fluvial and landscape processes.