Recognition Criteria, Characteristics and Implications of the Fluvial to Marine Transition Zone in Ancient Deltaic Deposits (Lajas Formation, Argentina)

Marcello Gugliotta, Stephen Flint, D.M. Hodgson , G.D Veiga

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The seaward end of modern rivers is characterized by the interactions of marine and fluvial processes, a tract known as the fluvial to marine transition zone (FMTZ), which varies between systems due to the relative strength of these processes. To understand how fluvial and tidal process interactions and the FMTZ are preserved in the rock record, large-scale outcrops of deltaic deposits of the Middle Jurassic Lajas Formation (Neuquén Basin, Argentina) have been investigated. Fluvial-tidal indicators consist of cyclically distributed carbonaceous drapes in unidirectional, seaward-oriented cross-stratifications, which are interpreted as the result of tidal modulation of the fluvial current in the inner part of the FMTZ. Heterolithic deposits with dm-scale interbedding of coarser- and finer-grained facies with mixed fluvial and tidal affinities are interpreted to indicate fluvial discharge fluctuations (seasonality) and subordinate tidal influence. Many other potential tidal indicators are argued to be the result of fluvial-tidal interactions with overall fluvial dominance, or of purely fluvial processes. No purely tidal or tide-dominated facies were recognized in the studied deposits. Moreover, fluvial-tidal features are found mainly in deposits interpreted as interflood (forming during low river stage) in distal (delta front) or off-axis (interdistributary) parts of the system. Along major channel axes, the interpreted FMTZ is mainly represented by the fluvial-dominated section, whereas little or no tide-dominated section is identified. The system is interpreted to have been hyposynchronous with a poorly developed turbidity maximum. These conditions and the architectural elements described, including major and minor distributary channels, terminal distributary channels, mouth bars and crevasse mouth bars, are consistent with an interpretation of a fluvial-dominated, tide-influenced delta system and with an estimated short backwater length and inferred microtidal conditions. The improved identification of process interactions, and their preservation in ancient FMTZs, is fundamental to refining interpretations of ancient deltaic successions.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number7
Early online date23 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


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