Deposition and diagenesis of the early Permian Lower Parmeener Supergroup limestones, Tasmania
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The Lower Parmeener Supergroup consists of 500 to 900 metres of marine and terrigenous sedimentary rocks, deposited in the high-latitude Tasmania Basin during the late Carboniferous to middle Permian, at the end of the late Paleozoic ice age. Two bioclastic carbonate units, the Darlington and Berriedale limestones, are of particular interest due to their formation in this polar, cold-water environment. Both limestones contain ice-rafted debris scattered throughout, signifying numerous icebergs, and are under- and over-lain by glendonitic siltstone indicating near-freezing seawater. Despite the unusual environment, seawater in the Permian Tasmania Basin was, with the exception of an anomalously high 13C value, isotopically and chemically similar to modern seawater. These limestones consist of a high-abundance, low-diversity heterozoan assemblage, dominated by large, robust brachiopods, bryozoans, and Eurydesma bivalves. Sponge spicules and crinoids are locally important constituents. The carbonates are interpreted to have been deposited in mid-shelf environments during sea-level highstands, where the faunal communities were beyond the depths of grounding icebergs, and sufficiently outboard from terrigenous sediment influx and brackish water. Growth and preservation of biogenic carbonates were promoted by up-welling of nutrient-rich water, which sustained high levels of primary productivity in the water column and phosphate concentrations in the sediment. Lower Parmeener Supergroup carbonates were exposed to a complex series of diagenetic processes, commencing on the seafloor and continuing during rapid burial. Limestone composition was further modified by diagenetic fluids associated with the intrusion of Mesozoic igneous rocks. Alteration in the marine paleoenvironment was both destructive and constructive; although dissolution took place there was also coeval precipitation of fibrous calcite cement, phosphate, and glauconite. These processes are interpreted to have been promoted by mixing of marine waters and enabled by microbial degradation of organic matter. In contrast, meteoric diagenesis was insignificant, being confined to minor dissolution and localized cementation, although mechanical compaction was ubiquitous. Chemical compaction was instigated at burial to depths of approximately 150 m, and promoted extensive precipitation of ferroan calcite. Diagenesis may well have ended here, except for the subsequent intrusion of massive Mesozoic diabases and associated injection of silicifying fluids into the limestones. Finally, fractures associated with Cretaceous uplift were filled with late-stage non-ferroan calcite cement.