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Drowning of the Triassic Yangtze Platform, South China, By Tectonic Subsidence Into Toxic Deep Waters of An Anoxic Basin
The Yangtze Platform drowned and was buried by pelagic facies and siliciclastic turbidites in western Guizhou Province during the Late Triassic, Carnian. The uppermost platform facies of the Ladinian Yangliujing Fm. consists of peritidal cyclic carbonate. Ladinian margin facies of the Longtou Fm. consist of grainstone and lenses of coral–Tubiphytes algal boundstone indicating high-energy shoals and patch reefs. The drowning horizon is laterally variable; it is either a sharp surface or a gradational shift to dark, nodular-bedded lime mudstone and wackestone of the Zhuganpo Fm. The contact lacks phosphatized or glauconitized hardgrounds that would indicate drowning by excess nutrient flux. Uppermost platform carbonates have a tropical photozoan biota and lack siliciclastic content indicating neither climate cooling nor siliciclastic flux played a role in drowning. The Zhuganpo Fm. contains a dominantly pelagic biota of ammonoids, planktonic bivalves, pseudoplanktonic crinoids, conodonts, and the marine reptile Keichousaurus. Rare bioturbation and benthic biota in the lower part indicate dysoxic conditions with an upward shift to anoxic conditions. The overlying Wayao Fm. is a pyritic, laminated, black argillaceous lime mudstone that grades to black shale with an exclusively pelagic fauna and marine reptile lagerstättes indicating anoxic deep-marine sedimentation.
Syndepositional faults played a significant role in the evolution of the western sector of the Yangtze Platform and controlled three local, backstepped accommodation cycles in the Zhenfeng area. Faults that developed during the last accommodation cycle tip out at the drowning horizon and include a flower structure upon which a pinnacle reef developed while the rest of the platform drowned. Lateral variability in the drowning horizon and thickness of the post-drowning pelagic facies suggest that differential tectonic subsidence caused the platform to sink into deep water along faults.
Magnetic susceptibility and paleomagnetic-reversal correlations demonstrate that the western sector of the platform drowned while shallow-marine, mixed carbonate siliciclastic sedimentation continued in the eastern sector which later terminated in shallow water by increasing siliciclastic flux. Starved black shale horizons in the basin indicate recurrent bottom-water anoxia. Elevated trace-metal concentrations in the pelagic facies of the Zhuganpo and Wayao formations indicate dysoxic to anoxic conditions and enhanced preservation of organic matter. Tectonic subsidence likely submerged the western sector into deep, toxic waters of the basin, killing benthic carbonate production.
Previous studies have implicated the Carnian pluvial event as a cause of drowning of the Yangtze Platform and the shift to siliciclastic turbidites of the Laishike Fm., but the Yangtze Platform drowned earlier than western Tethys platforms and siliciclastics were already rapidly infilling the basin in the Anisian and Ladinian, indicating that the events are probably unrelated. Siliciclastics of the Laishike Fm. that overlapped and buried the platform only after the basin was filled are better interpreted as a response to tectonics than to a shift in climate.
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