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Effect of Oceanographic and Depositional Events on Neogene Benthic Foraminiferal Biostratigraphy of California

Gregg H. Blake

The relationships between Neogene environmental events and associated faunal distributional patterns of continental margin benthic foraminiferal faunas are affected or controlled by both local and regional events. These events are related to the complex evolution of the oceanic environment and the California continental margin.

Evidence from Deep Sea Drilling Project sites drilled in the Pacific Ocean indicates that major changes in the oceanic environment have produced major faunal turnovers, migrations, and reorganizations of deep-sea benthic foraminiferal assemblages during the Neogene. DSDP Sites 467, 468, and 469, and the Naples Bluff section of southern California, the distributional patterns of continental margin benthic foraminiferal assemblages are strongly related to Neogene climatic-oceanic events. The faunal changes and responses described from the continental margin assemblages are similar in composition and timing to changes documented in the deep sea.

The response of the benthic foraminiferal faunas is almost simultaneous across the continental margin in regard to the regional oceanic-climatic events. Several of these events were associated with changes in surface productivity and expansion of the oxygen minima. Local events involved the change in sedimentation and tectonic activity.

The oceanic reorganization that occurred 15-13 Ma is responsible for a major change in the faunal patterns across the continental margin. Early Neogene faunas (the Saucesian, Relizian, and Luisian assemblages) were replaced by the Mohnian assemblage. The climatic-oceanic event at 9 to 8 Ma involved an increase in Antarctic glaciation and a resultant increase in upwelling and surface productivity. The associated faunal changes consist of a shift in the character of the Mohnian assemblage. At approximately 5.2 Ma, the Repettian assemblage increased considerably probably in relation to the Messinian event.

Based on the relationship between the distribution of the continental margin assemblages and the regional climatic, oceanic, and tectonic events, a more precise biostratigraphic scheme can be developed. This scheme increases the credibility in the use of benthic foraminiferal assemblages for intrabasinal and interbasinal correlations.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.