Limestone pseudoconglomerates in the Late Cambrian Gushan and Chaomidian Formations (Shandong Province, China): soft-sediment deformation induced by storm-wave loading



This paper focuses on the formative processes of limestone pseudoconglomerates in the Gushan and Chaomidian Formations (Late Cambrian) of the North China Platform, Shandong Province, China. The Gushan and Chaomidian Formations consist mainly of limestone and shale (marlstone) interlayers, wackestone to packstone, grainstone and microbialite as well as numerous limestone conglomerates. Seventy-three beds of limestone pseudoconglomerate in the Gushan and Chaomidian Formations were analysed based on clast and matrix compositions, internal fabric, sedimentary structures and bed geometry. These pseudoconglomerates are characterized by oligomictic to polymictic limestone clasts of various shapes (i.e. flat to undulatory disc, blade and sheet), marlstone and/or grainstone matrix and various internal fabrics (i.e. intact, thrusted, edgewise and disorganized), as well as transitional boundaries. Limestone pseudoconglomerates formed as a result of soft-sediment deformation of carbonate and argillaceous interlayers at a shallow burial depth. Differential early cementation of carbonate and argillaceous sediments provided the requisite conditions for the formation of pseudoconglomerates. Initial deformation (i.e. burial fragmentation, liquefaction and injection) and subsequent mobilization and disruption of fragmented clasts are two important processes for the formation of pseudoconglomerates. Burial fragmentation resulted from mechanical rupture of cohesive carbonate mud, whereas subsequent mobilization of fragmented clasts was due to the injection of fluid materials (liquefied carbonate sand and water-saturated argillaceous mud) under increased stress. Storm-wave loading was the most probable deformation mechanism, as an external triggering force. Subsequent re-orientation and rounding of clasts were probably prolonged under normal compactional stress. Eventually, disrupted clasts, along with matrix materials, were transformed into pseudoconglomerates by progressive lithification. Soft-sediment deformation is prevalent in alternate layers of limestone and mud(marl)stone and/or grainstone, regardless of their depositional environments.