Facies architecture and cyclicity in a mosaic carbonate platform: effects of fault-block tectonics (Lower Lias, Causses platform, south-east France)



In the Causses platform (south-east France), Late Hettangian to Sinemurian deposits were interpreted previously as shallow-water carbonate ramp deposits. A new look at these deposits has shown a fault-controlled mosaic carbonate platform that is different from the carbonate ramp models. Within the platform mosaic, 15 lithofacies have been recognized, which are organized in four facies associations, including peritidal, restricted shallow sub-tidal, sand dunes and sub-tidal shelf facies associations. The rapid lateral and vertical facies changes, and the lack of consistent landward or seaward direction indicated by the pattern of facies changes, question the existence of a shoreline suggested by the traditional models for this region. Instead, the facies organization and cycle stacking pattern suggest deposition in a mosaic of intertidal islands between which sub-tidal restricted or open conditions could coexist in very close proximity. Such a platform mosaic would have been defined by tectonic activities along normal faults which segmented the shallow-water Causses platform.

The facies and facies associations are arranged into metre-scale, peritidal and sub-tidal cycles that are also variable. Certain cycles show the same stacking pattern in all the sections and seem to be traceable over tens of kilometres. On the contrary, other cycles cannot be correlated; they are present only in specific sections and have a maximum lateral extension of 1 or 2 km. These metre-scale cycles stack to form four medium-scale cycles bounded by surfaces that display sub-aerial exposure features. Medium-scale cycles stack into two larger-scale cycles (tens of metres thick) and are bounded by well-defined karstic surfaces. Based on their lateral continuity and their stacking pattern, the metre-scale cycles are controlled probably by high frequency eustatic variations overprinting the topographic irregularities formed by differential subsidence of fault-bounded blocks. Episodic fault activities may reorganize the topography so that, even if eustatic changes may still be the major control of cycles, the expression and number of cycles could be different. Cycles of medium and large-scale are interpreted as being allogenic, controlled by changes in eustasy and/or subsidence rates as evidenced by their lateral continuity and the correlations of the large-scale cycles with third-order depositional sequences.