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    A late Ordovician (Hirnantian) karstic surface in a submarine channel, recording glacio-eustatic sea-level changes: Meifod, central Wales

    Brenchley, P.J. and Marshall, J.D. and Harper, D.A.T. and Buttler, C.J. and Underwood, Charlie J. (2006) A late Ordovician (Hirnantian) karstic surface in a submarine channel, recording glacio-eustatic sea-level changes: Meifod, central Wales. Geological Journal 41 (1), pp. 1-22. ISSN 0072-1050.

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    The growth and decay of the end‐Ordovician Gondwanan glaciation is globally reflected by facies changes in sedimentary sequences, which record a major eustatic fall and subsequent rise in the Hirnantian Stage at the end of the Ordovician. However, there are different reported estimates of the magnitude and pattern of sea‐level change. Particularly good evidence for end‐Ordovician sea‐level change comes from a sequence at Meifod in central Wales, which has a karstified limestone unit within a channel incised into marine shelf sediments. Pre‐glacial (Rawtheyan) mudstones have a diverse fauna suggesting a mid‐to‐deep‐shelf water depth of c. 60 m. The channel, 20 m deep, was incised into these mudstones and partially filled with a mixture of fine sand and detrital carbonate. The taphonomy of bioclasts and intraclasts indicates that many had a long residence time on the sea floor or suffered diagenesis after shallow burial before being resedimented into the channel. The presence of carbonates on the Welsh shelf is atypical and they are interpreted as having accumulated as patches during a minor regression prior to the main glacio‐eustatic fall. Comparison of the carbon stable‐isotopic values of the bioclast material with the global isotopic record confirms that most of the material is of Rawtheyan age, but that some is Hirnantian. The resedimented carbonates lithified rapidly and formed a limestone, several metres thick, in the deepest parts of the channel. As sea‐level fell, this limestone was exposed and eroded into karstic domes and pillars with a relief of over 2 m. The overall, glacio‐eustatic, sea‐level fall is estimated to be in excess of 80 m. A succeeding sea‐level rise estimated to be 40–50 m is recorded in the laminated crust that mantles the karstic domes and pillars. The crust is formed of encrusting bryozoans, associated cystoids, crinoid holdfasts and clusters of the brachiopod Paromalomena, which is normally associated with mid‐shelf environments. Fine sands buried the karst topography and accumulated to fill the channel. In the sandstones at the base of the channel there is a Hirnantia fauna, while in the sandstones high in the channel‐sequence there is cross‐stratification characteristic of mid‐shoreface environments. This would indicate a fall of sea‐level of c. 30 m. The subsequent major transgression marking the end of the glaciation is not recorded at the Meifod locality, but nearby exposures of mudstones suggest a return to mid‐to‐deep‐shelf environments, similar to those that prevailed before the Hirnantian regression. The Meifod sequence provides strong evidence for the magnitude of the Hirnantian sea‐level changes and by implication confirm larger estimates for the size of the ice sheets. Smaller oscillations in relative sea‐level seen at Meifod may be local phenomena or may reflect eustatic changes that have not been widely reported elsewhere.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Natural Sciences
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 28 May 2019 10:05
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:51


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