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Sequence Stratigraphy and the Interpretation of Neoproterozoic Earth History

Christie-Blick, Nicholas; Dyson, Ian A.; Von der Borch, C. C.

The application of sequence stratigraphy to Neoproterozoic successions is important for improving the resolution of time-correlation within individual sedimentary basins and potentially at a global scale. The methodology is illustrated in this paper by reference to two contrasting examples from the Flinders Ranges (Adelaide geosyncline) of South Australia, where the younger part of the Neoproterozoic to earliest Cambrian succession (∼ 770 Ma to ∼ 540 Ma) has been divided into thirteen unconformity-bounded depositional sequences. One of the most prominent sequence boundaries, at or near the base of the Wonoka Formation, is characterized by a series of buried canyons as much as 1 km deep. High-resolution sequence-stratigraphic studies at Umberatana syncline continue to support the view that the canyons were cut subaerially and filled by fluvial and shallow-water sediments. In contrast to the Wonoka canyons, sequence boundaries interpreted at the base of the Nuccaleena Formation/Seacliff Sandstone and near the top of the ABC Range Quartzite are relatively subtle, with only limited evidence for erosion and valley incision. Four sequence boundaries, at the level of the Sturtian and Marinoan (Varanger?) glacial deposits and in the vicinity of the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary, are thought to correlate with surfaces in the Amadeus basin of central Australia. Other prominent sequence boundaries, including the Wonoka canyons and surfaces within the upper part of the Wonoka Formation and at the base of the Ediacara Member of the Rawnsley Quartzite, correspond with a relatively condensed section in the Amadeus basin, and their lateral persistence beyond the Adelaide geosyncline is therefore difficult to evaluate. Given the lack of precision in biostratigraphy and isotope geochemistry in Neoproterozoic rocks, and in a marked departure from Phanerozoic practice, we recommend placement of a terminal Proterozoic GSSP at a sequence boundary. A prime candidate in Australia is the sequence boundary at the base of the Nuccaleena Formation/Seacliff Sandstone, immediately above the Marinoan glacial rocks in the Adelaide geosyncline, and its likely correlative at or near the base of the Gaylad Sandstone in the Amadeus basin.

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Precambrian Research

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