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Sea Level and Geostrophic Current Control on Carbonate Shelf-Slope Depositional Sequences and Erosional Patterns, South Florida Platform Margin

LOCKER, S. D., and A. C. HINE, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL, and E. A. SHINN, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology, St. Petersburg, FL

High-resolution seismic reflection profiles across the shelf-slope margin between the Dry Tortugas and Key West, Florida, indicate that sea-level fluctuations and the eastward flowing Florida Current are major controls on late Quaternary sequence stratigraphy. The study area, a transition zone between the open south Florida shelf and the lower Florida Keys island/reef system, is typified by a shallow shelf with reef margin adjacent to a deeper lower-shelf/slope. The lower-shelf/slope is composed of stacked or prograding sequences that downlap and pinchout on the Pourtales Terrace.

Strike oriented stratigraphic sections exhibit many sea-level controlled features such as lowstand erosion, transgressive unconformities, and highstand system tracts. Lowstand reefs, notches, or barriers are observed as deep as 150 m below present sea level.

Depositional styles change along-slope from west to east. The western portion of the study area is characterized by thick, low-amplitude, prograding sequences related to abundant supply of sediment through off-shelf transport during high sea-levels as well as along-slope reworking by the Florida current. Part of this section has been severely eroded by along-slope currents producing localized cut-and-fill structures and widespread erosional unconformities. To the east, a thinner section of high-amplitude reflections is common seaward of the lower Florida Keys reef tract system. Again, along-slope current erosion and winnowing of sediment supplied by the adjacent margin is evident.

This study provides new evidence of how strong geostrophic boundary currents along with fluctuating sea levels have interacted to control depositional sequences on a carbonate slope in the Florida/Bahamas platform complex.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91004 © 1991 AAPG Annual Convention Dallas, Texas, April 7-10, 1991 (2009)