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Accumulation Rates of Biogenous Silica and Terrigenous Detritus in Late Miocene-Early Pliocene Santa Maria Basin, California

Pedro C. Ramiriz

The upper Miocene-lower Pliocene laminated to massive diatomaceous strata of the Santa Maria basin encompass portions of the Monterey and overlying conformable to nonconformable Sisquoc Formations and record the continued accumulation of admixed siliceous (mostly diatoms) and terrigenous (silt and clay) components in a Neogene borderland basin. Lithologies, which vary from diatomite to diatomaceous mudstone, are the result of fluctuations in slope-accumulating silica and terrigenous debris.

Bulk accumulation rates, as well as silica and terrigenous component accumulation rates, were calculated for four measured sections using accurate stratal thicknesses, absolute ages, rock compositions, and bulk densities. Bulk accumulation rates range from less than 20 to greater than 70 mg/cm2/year and are comparable to bulk accumulation rates in the present-day Santa Barbara basin and Gulf of California. Silica accumulation rates (20-30 mg/cm2/year) suggest that sedimentation took place beneath productive waters and they exceed those encountered in other high-productivity oceanic areas, such as the Bering Sea and Peruvian coastal waters. Relatively high terrigenous accumulation rates (18-35 mg/cm2/year) reflect the dilution of these high-productivity waters by continentally derived detritus.

Comparison of calculated accumulation rates with rates determined for similarly aged strata of the Santa Barbara basin reveals that silica and terrigenous debris were accumulating at higher rates within the Santa Maria basin. These differences are due to the complex interplay of tectonics and oceanographics and to the proximity of the basins relative to the strandline.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91035©1988 AAPG-SEPM-SEG Pacific Sections and SPWLA Annual Convention, Santa Barbara, California, 17-19 April 1988.