Get Instant Help From 5000+ Experts For

Writing: Get your essay and assignment written from scratch by PhD expert

Rewriting: Paraphrase or rewrite your friend's essay with similar meaning at reduced cost

Editing:Proofread your work by experts and improve grade at Lowest cost

And Improve Your Grades
Phone no. Missing!

Enter phone no. to receive critical updates and urgent messages !

Attach file

Error goes here

Files Missing!

Please upload all relevant files for quick & complete assistance.

Guaranteed Higher Grade!
Free Quote

Short Term Processes and Climatic Changes

The main geological, oceanographic and physical factors that cause the drowning of carbonate platforms?

The destruction of carbonate platforms are mostly linked to the short term processes. The study of climatic changes, induced due to the human interactions, would be important for the saving these valuable assets from drowning and decline. However, beyond these factors there are long term processes constantly weakening the growth of the reefs.

The abundance of the drowned reefs in tectonically dormant north eastern Australian margin has been attributed to the rates of sea level changes and the margin subsidence. It has been found that the long term growth rates of the reefs are outpaced by the margin subsidence.

The ‘Carbonate platform’ is in general used to describe a shallow marine sedimentary relief formed by calcareous deposits, along the continental margins. The development of the carbonate platforms are induced by the sessile marine lives which build up reefs with their skeletal deposits or the micro-organisms which cause the sedimentation of carbonates through metabolism. The carbonate platforms may be few to several hundred kilometres thick and wide.

The carbonate platforms are found in interesting topographical geometries which range between the two major ones. On one side there are low and gradually sloping ramps or distally steep ramps and platforms with flat tops which have steep margins. The later can be classified as rimmed and non rimmed shelves. Understanding the growth of the microbes and the water turbulence can explain the variety of structures of carbonate platforms.

The development or formation of the carbonate platforms requires typical environment conditions. They have been found in tropical as well as the temperate regions. In the tropical belt they have been found between north and south latitudes, as the region where the tropical platform building microbes are found require warm temperatures ( ), shallow clear water are available. In the temperate belts they are available in the region above north and below south latitudes. These regions have cooler temperatures and they inhabit in the water with low silicates. Thus, they are only found in places where the requisite temperature, abundance of light and clear water are found.

The carbonate ramps are found in the tropical as well as the temperate belts where the size and type of grain vary with the relative distance from the shore. They are subdivided into two different types depending upon their slopes. The homoclinal ramps belong to the category of ramps with slow and gradual slopes (less than gradients), with no steep margins or slope breaks. These ramps are believed to be formed by mud producing organisms and there by developing fine grain gradual ramps. The other type of ramps is called as distally steep ramps which are marked with slope breaks and steep margins. The gradient of distally steep ramps is significantly slower than then the flat topped platforms (FTP). They are marked with non uniform slope breaks and coarse grained deposits.

Rimmed carbonate shelves are the flat topped carbonate platforms which are characterised with flat tops and are shallow (0-30 m). They have found as narrow deposits with a distinct and sharp slope breaks where the gradient can be greater than .near the shore line. The shallow water frame building organisms which leave the skeletal deposits, may lead to the formation of reefs, which may resist the flow of water into the back reef area leading to the formation of lagoons. These are only found in the tropical regions as the reef forming biota requires warm climates and light.

Long Term Processes and Marginal Subsistence

Figure 1: The Morphology of carbonate platforms. Figure shows the different platforms form the structural view.

The rimmed margin shelves are characterised with shallow (less than 10 m depth) and high energy wave resistant build ups formed by frame building biota and sedimentation. These structures are compared with bucket fill model with the rim made of hard skeletal organic material while the inside deposits being soft and made of sand. Even though the composition of the rim and the interior are of different compositions, the growth of both of them is dependent on the potential of rim for growth. Another model of development of rimmed shelves suggests that they are built by the progradation of reef and filling material seaward form the interior rather than from the sea platform lagoon ward transportation of materials. It has been suggested that this model of platform development would be applicable to the growth of other platforms.

In case of the non-rimmed carbonate shelves there is no break of slope as found in the previous one. This leads to the little protection of the platforms from the waves. These platforms consist of gravel size deposits and the micro-organisms hardly need light or warm temperatures. Thus they are found in both the temperate and the tropical regions.

The carbonate platforms are home to the rich reservoirs of hydrocarbons and thus their evolution and formation are of special interests for research. The different carbonate platforms have different geometry, facie, porosity and permeability which results into the differences in the distribution of the reservoirs. The benthic skeletal production of carbonate components is of high importance to the carbonate platforms. However, the open sea or the shallow water production also forms a significant part. The presence of light for the photosynthesis in autotrophic, mixotrophic or heterotrophic organisms is important as the production of carbonates happens mostly in the water at a depth of less than 10 m, below those water levels the production decreases significantly due to unavailability of light.

The carbonate producing biota is divided into three major sub groups depending on the light conditions required by them to grow. The first group belong to the autotrophs and mixotrophs which groups which require abundance of light and therefore occupy the shallow water with penetration of light greater than 0.1%. These are known as the euphotic biota. The next group belongs to those autotrophs and mixotrophs which require lesser light penetration (0.001% to 0.1%) and less temperature and are known as Oligophotic biota. The last group belongs to the groups which are photo independent and are found in waters with lesser light penetration (less than 0.001%). They are mostly dependent on the availability of food in the region for their growth. There are other factors like salinity of water, availability of phytoplankton, water movement, the resistance posed by the platforms to the water waves.

                                                       Figure 2: Distribution of biota along the carbonate platforms

Based on the type of biota producing carbonate deposits, there has been proposed different production medium or factories. The tropical carbonate producing, shallow water euphotic, biota produces the rimmed shelves. The heterotrophic cool water skeleton producing biota produce the non-rimmed carbonate shelves. The light independent biota consists of mud producing microorganisms which develop the ramp carbonate platforms. The carbonate producing factories are developed through the intrinsic factors like presence of micro organisms and the factors leading to their growth (light availability, temperature, water turbulence, salinity, availability of food etc.) and extrinsic factors like the climate and water conditions. Once developed the carbonate platforms are affected by the wind and water activity like waves, tides, ocean currents etc. Thus it is the hydraulic regime which controls the growth and transport of the material between centre and margins of carbonate platforms. The relative rise or fall of the sea level and the rate and style of the subsidence determine the development of carbonate platforms. Suppose the relative sea level subsides the carbonate platform above water would start to degrade and erode.

Understanding the Formation of Carbonate Platforms

The carbonate platform digenesis and geometry of the facie are dependent on the composition of the sediment and biota which cause the precipitation of carbonate skeletal. Along with these factors it is also influenced on platform scale by long term factors like platform subsidence and drowning.

Figure 3: Carbonate production profiles with T: Tropical factory, M=mud factory and C: temperate factory

The relative change in the sea level with respect to the carbonate platforms is one of the factors controlling evolution. This is because the production of the carbonates is dependent on light and temperature. The maximum production occurs in the level up to 10 m and decreases thereafter.

Throughout the globe there have been changes in the sea level, which is the result of the eustatic changes, sedimentation process and the tectonic movements has happened cyclically throughout he periods. The lifecycle of carbonate platforms range from five to several tens of million years, which is same as the third order sea level cycles. The response of carbonate platforms relative to the sea level changes has been outlined by Moore through the evolution period. The response of the carbonate platforms with relative sea level changes occurs in three different phases after exposure. The first phase is the ‘start up’ phase where the carbonate sedimentation lags the relative sea level rise. The next phase is called ‘catch up’ phase when the carbonate sedimentation builds faster than the sea level rise. The third and last phase is the ‘keep up’ phase where the carbonate sedimentation closely matches the relative sea level changes and the top or ‘crest’ of the sedimentation is close to the sea level.

During the first phase ‘start up’ there is high level growth of the carbonate platform leading to the development of ramp. The high energy currents moves from the shoreline o the centre and here are no developed margins to the ramps which are bathymetrically controlled. The carbonate platform accumulates during the catch up phase when the rise of sea level slows down leading to the growth of vertical stack. The ramp develops into rimmed shelves due to the high production of carbonate. In the next phase the carbonate platform growth is limited along the vertical stack, while the lateral development or evolution of the ramp may happen.

The platforms drowned below the sea levels are not morphologically different from the platforms discussed in the previous sections. They comprise of the similar structures like drowned ramps or rimmed shelves. They undergo through the period of evolution and a possibly change in the sea level or the tectonic movement which might have resulted into platform subsidence. The Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean are common with the examples of the isolated drowned platforms and atolls, subsided, following the ceased volcanic activity, below the reach of light. This leads to the cessation of the growth of carbonate forming biota and hence the platform growth.

Figure 4: The Carbonate platform shaping up due to the relative sea-level changes and the response of the carbonate producing factories

Topographic Geometries of Carbonate Platforms

The Blake plateau which was drowned during the Holocene and Cretaceous period is currently more than 2000 m deep under sea level. The platform is rich in pelagic, ferrous and manganese deposits which are characteristic of cretaceous period. The Holocene St Croix Island are beginning to drown are formed with coral reefs (W. H. Adey 1976). The Pourtales Terrace (East of Florida), characteristic of Pleistocene period, is about 150 m to 300 m deep. It is rich in algal and pelagic growth.

The Miami Terrace which was drowned during the Miocene period, evolved with the growth of the basin during the early Miocene period. The terrace was exposed due to the fall of the sea level during the late Miocene period which was subsequently drowned later. It is endowed with pelagic and phosphorite sediments.

The vertical growth of the carbonate platform is approximated to be 100 cm per thousand years which exceed far from the changes in relative and eustatic sea level changes. The platforms drowned as the result of the sea level changes present as a paradox in itself as the rate of sea level rise in the second or third order of eustatic changes is less in magnitude compared with the healthy rise in level of carbonate platforms. According to Schlager, the eustatic changes in the sea level or subsidence could outpace the vertical growth of carbonate accumulation only in case of sudden change in extrinsic factors like the change in the fault lines can lead to the sudden subsidence of the platform. The sudden influx of water due to melting of glaciers can also lead to the change in sea level. Other factors like the change in the salinity, temperature, water turbulence, depletion of the nutrients, rise of silicates in water, change in the photic levels of sea water can also lead to the sudden decrease or death of the underwater organisms. It has been pointed out there may not be a singular factor responsible for the drowning of the carbonate platforms but there may be a combination of two more factors. Schlager has pointed out that to contain the growth of reef forming biological growth, the factors should appear in brief periods and should repeat themselves at regular intervals, once in period less than a million years.

Even though there may be a multiplicity of reasons for drowning of the platforms, the major role is played by the interactions between the change of relative or eustatic sea level and growth of the carbonate factory. The different rates of sea level changes have a different level of impact and responses of the carbonate factory change accordingly. The carbonate platform may shift basin ward (prograde), stack on vertically (aggrade), step back (retrograde) or step down. These responses can be traced back to the changes in eustatic or relative sea level changes. The responses are of importance to predict the changes in the platform.

Figure 5: The phases of evolution and drowning of the carbonate factories

Development and Formation of Carbonate Platforms

The carbonate platforms which have drowned in the recent past are results of the sea level rise exceeding the potential growth of the platform. However, it has not been enough to stop the production of the carbonate factory. These carbonate platforms are above the sea level along the rimmed side but are under water towards the shoreline (lagoon wards).The platforms subsidence which have been caused by the movement of the tectonic plates are more susceptible to drowning of the entire platform. These subsided platforms may recover with the cycles of rise and fall of the relative sea level. The carbonate ramp platform of Barbados is currently around 100 m below the sea level. The Mayotte drowned platform is mostly drowned while only a part of it, drowned in the Holocene period, has the continued growth of reefs.

The carbonate platforms may respond to the relative rise in the sea level, in case the rise is no rapid with respect to the growth of reef, by retreating or back stepping. The retreating is rare while the back stepping can be seen in the rimmed shelves. The back stepping can be advantageous to the reef growth, as the platform recedes to the shallower water. This reduces the platform width basin wards while the high growth potential of the carbonate factory is resumes equilibrium with respect to the rise in the sea level. Another advantage of the back stepped platform is the reduced destructive forces of high energy sea waves. The energy of the high energy waves is dissipated with friction with the bottom towards the platform or the shoreline.

The back stepping saves the platform from the subsidence towards the higher topography. This again saves the platform from subsiding along the fault lines. The back stepping creates a step like structure of the platform.

                                         Figure 6: Incipiently drowned carbonate platforms

The back stepping of the rimmed carbonate platform happens faster than the lagoon. In case the rim drowns under the sea level there are lesser chances to recover the platform. The back stepped platform would lead to higher growth of the reef in the equilibrium period, while the fall of the sea level in the ensuing period may lead to basin ward growth of the platform. The cycle of back stepping and basin ward growth leads to development of step like morphology.

As the platform evolves through growth and drowning, it interacts with the environment which leaves a mark on the topography. During the growth phase the platform may prograde or aggrade accumulating the sediments along the basin or vertical stack. The platform may subside during the phase of eustatic change of the sea level leading to the retrograde and back stepping of the platform. The platform may get exposed to the air due to the relative fall of the sea level and undergo through erosion, decay of reef and diagenesis. Each of evolution passes leaves its own signature. These signatures are helpful in tracking the history of evolution and reservoir of resources. These tools include:

Hydrocarbon Reservoirs of Carbonate Platforms

1. Taphonomic signatures: These are associated with the analysis of the history of the organic accumulation in the platforms, including the skeletal material. These are mainly related to the understanding of Taphonomic and diagenesis of the reef material under the sea level.

2. Diagenesis Signatures: It involves with the study of the physical and chemical nature of the deposits.

Acker, K.L. and Risk, M.J. “Substrate destruction and sediment production by the boring sponge Cliona caribbaea on Grand Cayman Island.” Journal of Sedimentary, 1985: 705-711.

Adams, A. E. and Mackenzie, W. S. “A Colour Atlas of Carbonate Sediments and Rocks Under the Microscope.” Manson Publishing, London, 1998: 180.

Adey, W. H. and Burke, R. “Holocene bioherms (algal ridges and bank barrier reefs) of eastern Caribbean.” Geological Society of America Bulletin, 1976: 95-106.

Adey, W.H. “Crustose coralline algae as microenvironmental indicators in the Tertiary.” Historical Biogeography, Plate Tectonics and the Changing Environment., 1979: 459-464.

Ahr, W. M. “The carbonate ramp - an alternative to the shelf model.” Transactions of the Gulf Coast Association Geological Society, 1973: 221-225.

Aissaoui, D.M., Buigues, D., Purser, B.H. “Model of reef diagenesis: Mururoa Atoll,French Polynesia.” Schroeder J. H. and Purser B. H. (Eds.) Reef Diagenesis, 1986: 27-52.

Alexandersson, E.T. “Micritization of carbonate particles: process of precipitation and dissolution in modern shallow- marine sediments.” Universitet Uppsala, Geologiska, 1972: 201-236.

Allaby, A. and Allaby, M. “A Dictionary of Earth Sciences.” Oxford University Press, 1999.

Aurell, M., Ba´ Denas, B., Bosence, D.W.J., Waltham, D.A. “Carbonate production and offshore transport on a Late Jurassic carbonate ramp (Kimmeridgian, Iberian basin,NE Spain): evidence from outcrops and computer modeling.” Carbonate Ramps: The Geological Society of London, Special Publication, 1998: 137-161.

Bak, R. “The growth of coral colonies and the importance of crustose coralline algae and burrowing sponges in relation with carbonate accumulation.” Netherlands Journal of Sea Research 10, 1976: 285-337.

Baker, P.A., Gieskes, J.M., Elderfield, H. “Diagenesis of carbonates in deep-sea sediments: evidence from Sr/Ca ratios and interstitial dissolved Sr.” Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 1982: 71-82.

Bathurst, R. G. C. “Boring algae, micrite envelopes and lithification of molluscan biosparites.” Journal of Geology , 1966: 15-32.

Berger, A. and Loutre, M.F. “Insolation values for the climate of the last 10 million years.” Quaternary Science Reviews, 1991: 297-317.

C., Bathurst R. G. “Carbonate Sediments and their Diagenesis.” Developments in Sedimentology, 1975: 658.

Ciarapica, G. and Passeri, L. “An overview of the Maldivian coral reefs in Felidu and North Malé atolls (Indian Ocean): platform drowning by ecological crises.” Facies, 1997: 33-6.

Logan, B. W., Harding, J.L. Ahr, W.M., Williams J.C., Snead, R.G. “Late Quaternary carbonate sediment in Yucatan Shelf, Mexico. Carbonate Sediments and Reefs.” The American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoirs, 1969: 5-128.

Moore, C. H. “Porosity Evolution and Diagenesis in a Sequence Stratigraphic Framework.” Developments in Sedimentology, 2001: 444.

Nash, M.C., Opdyke, B.N., Zhongwei, W., Huifang., X., Trafford, J.M. “Simple X-Ray Diffraction Techniques to Identify Mg Calcite, Dolomite, and Magnesite In Tropical Coralline Algae and Assess Peak Asymmetry.” Journal of Sedimentary Research 1084-1098.

Pigott, J.D. and Land, L.S. “Interstitial water chemistry of Jamaican reef sediments:sulfate reduction and submarine cementation.” Marine Chemsitry, 1986: 335-378.

Read, J.F. “ Phanerozoic carbonate ramps from greenhouse, transitional and icehouse worlds: clues from field and modeling studies.” Carbonate Ramps. Geological Society of London Special Publications , 1998: 107-135.

Schlager, W. “Carbonate sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy.” SEPM Special Publications, 2005: 174.

Taft, W.H., Arrington, F., Haimovitz, A., MacDonald, C., Woolheater, C. “Lithification of modern carbonate sediments at Yellow Bank, Bahamas.” Bulletin of Marine Sciences, Gulf and Caribbean , 1968: 762 - 878.

Tucker, M. E. “ Shallow marine carbonate facies and facies models.” Recent Developments and Applied Aspects. P. J. Brenchley and B. P. J. Williams, SpecialPublications of the Geological Society of London., 1985: 139-161.

Vail, P. R., Mitchum, R. M., Todd, R. G., Widmier, J. M., Thompson, S., Sangree, J. B., Bubb, J. N., Hatlelid, W. G. “ Seismic stratigraphy and global changes of sea level.” Seismic stratigraphy - applications to hydrocarbon exploration American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoir, 1977: 49-212.

Vaughan, T.W. “The results of investigations of the ecology of the Floridian and Bahamian shoal-water corals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 1916: 95-100.

Vogel, K., Gektidis, M., Golubic, S., Kiene, W., Radtke, G. “Experimental studies on microbial bioerosion at Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas and One Tree Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.” implications for paleoecological reconstructions. Lethaia, 2000: 190-204.

W, Schlager. “Sedimentation rates and growth potential of tropical, cool water and mud mound carbonate factories.” Carbonate Platform Systems: components and interactions. Geological Society of London Special Publications , 2000: 217–227.

W., Schlager. “ Benthic carbonate factories of the Phanerozoic.” International Journal of Earth Sciences, 2003: 445–464.

Webster, J.M. and Davies, P.J. “ Coral variation in two deep drill cores: significance for the Pleistocene development of the Great Barrier Reef.” Sedimentary Geology, 2003: 61–80.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

My Assignment Help. (2016). Factors Causing Drowning Of Carbonate Platforms. Retrieved from

"Factors Causing Drowning Of Carbonate Platforms." My Assignment Help, 2016,

My Assignment Help (2016) Factors Causing Drowning Of Carbonate Platforms [Online]. Available from:
[Accessed 17 July 2024].

My Assignment Help. 'Factors Causing Drowning Of Carbonate Platforms' (My Assignment Help, 2016) <> accessed 17 July 2024.

My Assignment Help. Factors Causing Drowning Of Carbonate Platforms [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2016 [cited 17 July 2024]. Available from:

Get instant help from 5000+ experts for

Writing: Get your essay and assignment written from scratch by PhD expert

Rewriting: Paraphrase or rewrite your friend's essay with similar meaning at reduced cost

Editing: Proofread your work by experts and improve grade at Lowest cost

250 words
Phone no. Missing!

Enter phone no. to receive critical updates and urgent messages !

Attach file

Error goes here

Files Missing!

Please upload all relevant files for quick & complete assistance.

Plagiarism checker
Verify originality of an essay
Generate unique essays in a jiffy
Plagiarism checker
Cite sources with ease
sales chat
sales chat