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Keywords:

  • Sea level;
  • carbonates;
  • synthetic stratigraphy;
  • ecostratigraphy;
  • coenocorrelation;
  • geohistory analysis;
  • vulcanism

Carbonate strata from the central parts of epicontinental seas are ideal for detailed biostratigraphic study of eustatic sea level change. Using a model for epeiric seas in which carbonate accumulation rate is depth-dependent, we derive synthetic stratigraphies for sea level histories simulating post-glacial transgression and constant and sinusoidally fluctuating ridge volume increase. These sea level histories give distinctively different trends for water depth as a function of stratigraphic position in sections' bathymetric curves. In general, depth is proportional to the rate of sea level rise. Depth-dependent sedimentation leads to a time lag between sea level fluctuation and corresponding depth fluctuation which, as examples show, can approach 106 years for depth fluctuations of only a few meters – a fundamental consideration in reconstructing sea level curves, time-correlating sections by their bathymetric curves, and attempting to relate bathymetric history on continents to mechanisms driving sea level change. Bathymetric curves based on gradient analysis of fossil assemblages (coenocorrelation curves) for Middle Ordovician sections in New York and the American Midwest approximate patterns for sinusoidally increasing sea level. The model's predictions are tested in an ‘artificial experiment’ that takes advantage of differential subsidence between the craton's middle and its edge to make a difference in the bathymetric histories of sections that otherwise record the same sea level history. Depth fluctuations of no more than a few meters over million year spans are potentially useful in time-correlation to within fractions of a cycle's period. The depth-dependence in sedimentation was that, above wave base, net accumulation per year was very roughly three-millionths the water depth. Association of volcanic ash layers with transitory sea level minima on the craton, and with onset of more rapid subduction in the Taconic are - continent collision zone, suggests interrelationship on a million year scale between sea level and large-scale tectonic phenomena.