Modelling of Reefs and Shallow Marine Carbonates
Carbonate sediments are often highly heterogeneous due to the numerous factors that control deposition. Understanding the processes and controls that are responsible for such complexity has, however, proved problematic. In addition, several of these processes are non-linear, so that depositional stratigraphies may consequently form complicated, perhaps even chaotic, geometries. Forward modelling can help us to understand the interactions between the various processes involved. Here a new three-dimensional forward model of carbonate production and deposition is presented, Carbonate GPM, which is specifically designed to test the interactions between the three main carbonate production controls: light intensity, wave power and carbonate supersaturation, the latter of which is unique to this model. The model also includes transport processes specific to the reef sediment only. The effect of supersaturation and reef transport is demonstrated by comparing the output of three, otherwise, identical runs. From these simulations the need to accurately model the flow of water around a reef system and to correctly take into the account the binding nature of reefal sediments can be seen. Analysis of the stratigraphy generated by changing the antecedent topography by 1m in one locality over a 50km square platform suggest that it may be impossible to predict in detail the stratigraphy of carbonate deposits due to its sensitivity to initial conditions or controlling parameters. This reinforces the conclusions reached using previous process models. However, unlike previous models, our model does not explicitly include nonlinear biological interactions as a control. Instead it shows that similar sensitive behaviour may originate from physicochemical processes alone. External factors, such as sea-level changes, will also influence the complex stratigraphy generated by the model. The effect of several different relative sea-level curves was assessed, each corresponding to a combination of three different hierarchies of sea-level oscillations. Large-scale external processes dominate internal processes, dampening their effect on stratigraphy. However, small-scale, high frequency external processes coupled with autocyclic processes do not show any discernable stratigraphic differences from autocyclcic processes alone. The model also produces an exponential cycle thickness distributions that are similar to those found in ancient deposits.