Active synsedimentary tectonism on a mixed carbonate–siliciclastic continental margin: third-order sequence stratigraphy of a ramp to basin transition, lower Sekwi Formation, Selwyn Basin, Northwest Territories, Canada



The lower part of the Early Cambrian Sekwi Formation in the Selwyn Basin of the Northwest Territories, Canada, is composed of two regional, unconformity-bounded sequences, S0 and S1, which record the first widespread carbonate deposition during the initial Palaeozoic transgression onto the western margin of Laurentia. These Early Cambrian sequences are unique to the western North American Cordillera, representing the only record of primarily deep-water deposition on a tectonically active, mixed carbonate–siliciclastic ramp during this period. More specifically, the geometry of the Sekwi ramp changed during deposition of S0 and S1, from a shallowly dipping homoclinal ramp during the S0 transgressive systems tract to a steeply dipping tectonically modified ramp during the early highstand systems tract of S0. The steeply dipping ramp profile of S0 was preserved into the early transgressive systems tract of S1. The Sekwi ramp returned to a gently sloping ramp during the late highstand systems tract of S1 and remained so throughout the remainder of Sekwi deposition. The evolving shape of the Sekwi ramp is attributed to syndepositional ‘down to the basin’ faulting during deposition of both S0 and S1 and is recorded by: (i) the westward thickening, irregular geometries of S0 and S1; (ii) geographical restriction of deep-water facies (including sediment gravity flow deposits); (iii) the presence of large allochthonous blocks; and (iv) the clast composition of sediment gravity flow deposits. Sediment gravity flow deposits play an unusually important role in the sequence stratigraphic interpretation of the lower Sekwi Formation, as they delineate depositional packages, including the maximum flooding zone, the transitions between portions of systems tracts, and the inferred locations of syntectonic extensional faults. Syntectonic faults increased accommodation basinward of an extensive ooid-shoal complex that developed along the Sekwi ramp crest, greatly influencing sequence geometry and initiating the downslope motion of sediment gravity flows. The syndepositional faulting probably was a continuation of extension that began during the latest Neoproterozoic rifting of western Laurentia. The composition of sediment gravity flow deposits track changing accommodation space on the lower Sekwi ramp and can be used to differentiate systems tracts that probably were related more to tectonism than eustasy.