Controlling factors of volumetrically important marine carbonate cementation in deep slope settings



The controlling parameters of early marine carbonate cementation in shoal water and hemipelagic to pelagic domains are well-studied. In contrast, the mechanisms driving the precipitation of early marine carbonate cements at deeper slope settings have received less attention, despite the fact that considerable volumes of early marine cement are present at recent and fossil carbonate slopes in water depths of several hundreds of metres. In order to better understand the controlling factors of pervasive early marine cementation at greater water depths, marine carbonate cements observed along time-parallel platform to basin transects of two intact Pennsylvanian carbonate slopes are compared with those present in the slope deposits of the Permian Capitan Reef and Neogene Mururoa Atoll. In all four settings, significant amounts of marine cements occlude primary pore spaces downslope into thermoclinal water depths, i.e. in a bathymetric range between some tens and several hundreds of metres. Radial, radiaxial and fascicular optic fibrous calcites, and radiaxial prismatic calcites are associated with re-deposited facies, boundstones and rudstones. Botryoidal (formerly) aragonitic precipitates are common in microbially induced limestones. From these case studies, it is tentatively concluded that sea water circulation in an extensive, near-sea floor pore system is a first-order control on carbonate ion supply and marine cementation. Coastal upwelling and internal or tidal currents are the most probable mechanisms driving pore water circulation at these depths. Carbonate cements precipitated under conditions of normal to elevated alkalinity, locally elevated nutrient levels and variable sea water temperatures. The implications of these findings and suggestions for future work are discussed.