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The Pleistocene Ironshore Formation, Grand Cayman: Diagenetic Response to Sea Level Change Open Access


Other title
Ironshore Formation
Grand Cayman
calcareous crust
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Li, Rong
Supervisor and department
Jones, Brian (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Gingras, Murray (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Harris, Nicholas (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Qing, Hairuo (Department of Geology, University of Regina)
Gleeson, Sarah (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The Ironshore Formation, a Pleistocene limestone succession found on Grand Cayman, is formed of six unconformity-bounded units (A to F) that developed in response to transgressive-regressive cycles. Highstands led to deposition whereas lowstands led to diagenetic change in the earlier deposited limestones. Analysis of the diagenetic features in the matrices and corals from each unit shows that the diagenetic styles of individual samples cannot be linked to specific unconformities. Instead, both intrinsic (e.g., skeletal microstructure, porosity and permeability of substrate) and extrinsic (e.g., sea level position, climate, exposure time) factors controlled development of the heterogeneous diagenetic patterns. The fact that the matrices of the limestones have undergone more meteoric diagenetic alteration than the corals can probably be ascribed to the higher permeabilities of the matrices that allowed larger volumes of water to flow through them. Maximum diagenesis took place during the lowstands that followed the deposition of units C and D, which can be attributed to the long-lasting lowstands that were accompanied by a wet climate with high rainfall. Interpretation of the diagenesis displayed in the Ironshore Formation highlights the fact that the diagenetic fabrics in a carbonate succession do not necessarily follow a systematic pattern that can be linked to the transgressive-regressive cycles that governed its formation. The laminar and non-laminar calcretes developed on Unit D of the Ironshore Formation on Grand Cayman display various diagenetic features that reflect the interactions between substrate, soil cover, climate, and biological influences that dictated their development. The δ13C values of the laminar calcretes record a change from C3 dominated vegetation that grew in a cool, wet climate to a C3/C4 mixed plant vegetation that grew in a drier, hotter climate. The similarities between Cayman calcareous crusts and those found in Florida suggest that such crusts are related to regional climate conditions and may therefore facilitate regional stratigraphic correlation.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Li, R., Jones, B., 2013. Heterogeneous diagenetic patterns in the Pleistocene Ironshore Formation of Grand Cayman, British West Indies. Sedimentary Geology 294, 251-265.Li, R., Jones, B., 2013. Temporal and spatial variations in the diagenetic fabrics and stable isotopes of Pleistocene corals from the Ironshore Formation of Grand Cayman, British West Indies. Sedimentary Geology 286-287, 58-72.Li., R., Jones, B., 2014. Calcareous crusts on exposed Pleistocene limestones: A case study from Grand Cayman, British West Indies. Sedimentary Geology 299, 88-105.

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