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Pliocene Te Aute limestones, New Zealand: Expanding concepts for cool-water shelf carbonates

Acceptance of a spectrum of warm- through cold-water shallow-marine carbonate facies has become of fundamental importance for correctly interpreting the origin and significance of all ancient platform limestones. Among other attributes, properties that have become a hallmark for characterising many Cenozoic non-tropical occurrences include: (1) the presence of common bryozoan and epifaunal bivalve skeletons; (2) a calcite-dominated mineralogy; (3) relatively thin deposits exhibiting low rates of sediment accumulation; (4) an overall destructive early diagenetic regime; and (5) that major porosity destruction and lithification occur mainly in response to chemical compaction of calcitic skeletons during moderate to deep burial. The Pliocene Te Aute limestones are non-tropical skeletal carbonates formed at paleolatitudes near 40-42°S under the influence of commonly strong tidal flows along the margins of an actively deforming and differentially uplifting forearc basin seaway, immediately inboard of the convergent Pacific-Australian plate boundary off eastern North Island, New Zealand. This dynamic depositional and tectonic setting strongly influenced both the style and subsequent diagenetic evolution of the limestones. Some of the Te Aute limestones exhibit the above kinds of "normal" non-tropical characteristics, but others do not. For example, many are barnacle and/or bivalve dominated, and several include attributes that at least superficially resemble properties of certain tropical carbonates. In this regard, a number of the limestones are infaunal bivalve rich and dominated by an aragonite over a calcite primary mineralogy, with consequently relatively high diagenetic potential. Individual limestone units are also often rather thick (e.g., up to 50-300 m), with accumulation rates from 0.2 to 0.5 m/ka, and locally as high as 1 m/ka. Moreover, there can be a remarkable array of diagenetic features in the limestones, involving grain alteration and/or cementation to widely varying extents within any, or some combination of, the marine phreatic, burial, and meteoric diagenetic environments, including locally widespread development of meteoric cement sourced from aragonite dissolution. The message is that non-tropical shelf carbonates include a more diverse array of geological settings, of skeletal and mineralogical facies, and of diagenetic features than current sedimentary models mainly advocate. While several attributes positively distinguish tropical from non-tropical limestones, continued detailed documentation of the wide spectrum of shallow-marine carbonate deposits formed outside tropical regions remains an important challenge in carbonate sedimentology.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Nelson, C.S., Winefield, P. R., Hood, S. D., Caron, V., Pallentin, A., & Kamp, P. J. J. (2003). Pliocene Te Aute limestones, New Zealand: Expanding concepts for cool-water shelf carbonates. New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysics. 46(3), 407-424.
SIR Publishing
This article has been published in the New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics. (c) 2003 Royal Society of New Zealand.