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Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 49 72

Research paper

A genetic classification of carbonate platforms based on their

basinal and tectonic settings in the Cenozoic
Dan Bosence
Department of Geology, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK
Received 8 April 2004; received in revised form 1 November 2004; accepted 7 December 2004


This paper reassesses the usefulness of the morphological classification of carbonate platforms into rimmed shelves and
ramps. Whilst the existing classifications have value in describing platform margin morphology at any one time, the terms
rimmed-shelf and ramp are less successful at categorising the entire morphology and stratigraphy of carbonate platforms.
Research on Cenozoic carbonate platforms from a range of different tectono-stratigraphic settings indicates that the basinal and
tectonic setting of a platform can be used to erect a first-order, genetic classification of carbonate platforms. The basinal and
tectonic setting of carbonate platforms is shown to control their occurrence, the overall 3-D platform morphology, the large-
scale stratigraphic features and depositional sequences. Climate, ocean chemistry and biological evolution control grain types,
facies and some elements of platform margins but not the larger-scale features considered in this new classification.
From a review of well-exposed outcropping and seismically imaged Cenozoic platforms, it is proposed that eight types of
carbonate platform can currently be recognised and characterised based on their basinal and tectonic setting: Fault-Block, Salt
Diapir, Subsiding Margin, Offshore Bank, Volcanic Pedestal, Thrust-Top, Delta-Top and Foreland Margin carbonate platforms.
These eight types are described using information from Cenozoic platforms worldwide and the controls on their development
are discussed. Many platform types (e.g. Subsiding Margin, Offshore Bank, Salt Diapir, Thrust-Top and Foreland Margin) are
typical of particular classes of sedimentary basins, others (e.g. Fault-Block, Volcanic Pedestal and Delta-Top) are more
widespread in their occurrence and occur in a range of basin types.
The value of this classification is that it is genetic rather than morphological; the classification reflects the entire morphology
and large-scale stratigraphy of the platform and the controls on its development. In addition, the platform models can be used to
understand the details of less well exposed, or seismically imaged platforms so that they can be characterised and understood in
terms of tectono-sedimentary processes. Conversely, the classification also provides valuable information on basin evolution, as
carbonate platforms house information on palaeoenvironments, sea-level change and are sensitive recorders of the tectonic
D 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Classification; Carbonate platforms; Tectonics; Basin setting; Cenozoic

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0037-0738/$ - see front matter D 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
50 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

1. Introduction widely spaced well data. In this situation the

eight models can be used as templates for more
Much research has been focused over the last 20 detailed interpretation and understanding, based
years on the effects that sea-level change, oceano- as they are on reasonably well-understood plat-
graphic factors and climate have on carbonate plat- form types established from recurring Cenozoic
form stratigraphies. Whilst these controls are examples.
important at the scale of grain types, facies, deposi-
tional sequences and types of platform margin, it is The widely used morphological classification of
considered here that it is the geotectonic setting of the carbonate platforms was presented nearly 30 years ago
platform that controls its gross morphology and large- by J.L. Wilson (1975). In this classification Wilson
scale stratigraphic evolution. This concept was intro- integrated Ahrs (1973) carbonate ramp with his
duced by Read (1985) and emphasised by Tucker and carbonate platform model, with major offshore banks,
Wright (1990) and Wilson (2002) but has not to provide a framework for the description and
previously been investigated in detail. In this paper, interpretation of carbonate platforms (Fig. 1). Sub-
eight different types of carbonate platform formed in sequently a major development in the understanding of
different basinal and tectonic settings in the Cenozoic the range of facies that occurs in carbonate platforms
are reviewed and presented as models or templates: and the detail of their spatial arrangements was made
Fault-Block, Salt Diapir, Subsiding Margin, Offshore by Read (1982, 1985) with his facies models. In
Bank, Volcanic Pedestal, Thrust-Top, Delta-Top and addition he clarified terminology by retaining
Foreland Margin carbonate platforms. bcarbonate platformQ as a general term encompassing
The purpose of this paper is to provide a genetic ramps, rimmed shelves and isolated platforms that has
classification of platform types to run alongside the been followed by many subsequent authors (e.g.
current morphological classification of ramps and Tucker and Wright, 1990). These facies models have
rimmed shelves (Wilson, 1975). also stood the test of time with few modifications over
The advantages of a genetic classification based on the last 20 years. The identification of the stratigraphic
Cenozoic examples are that: effects of relative sea-level changes over time sub-
sequently led to the development of sequence strati-
a) The new classification provides a comprehensive
genetic classification that is based on the major
controls on carbonate platform development and
their occurrence in sedimentary basins that will
enable better communication and a greater level
of understanding than the current scheme.
b) Where poorly exposed, or poorly understood
carbonate platforms are being studied they can
be compared to the eight carbonate platform
types that are from well-exposed and docu-
mented examples where the tectonic and basinal
controls are well known. Such comparisons will
enable a better understanding of the major
controls on the development of ancient carbonate
c) In subsurface examples the tectonic setting, 3-D
morphology and gross stratigraphic features of
carbonate platforms may be known from seismic
data. However, the internal stratigraphy, nature Fig. 1. Morphological classification of carbonate platforms (after
of depositional sequences and facies associations Wilson, 1975 and modifications following Read, 1985, and Wright
are often poorly known as this comes from and Burchette, 1996).
D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972 51

graphic models for ramps and rimmed shelves (e.g. Ramps and rimmed shelves are also closely related
Sarg, 1988; Handford and Loucks, 1993; Wright and in time. This was emphasised by Wilson (1975; p.21)
Burchette, 1996; Bosence and Wilson, 2003). and by Read (1985, pp. 1719) who both illustrated
With this stability in classification and nomencla- the evolution of ramps into the steeper-margined,
ture the following questions might well be asked: Do rimmed shelves. Well-exposed Cenozoic outcrop
geoscientists need a new classification of carbonate examples come from Mallorca (Pomar et al., 2002)
platforms? Are there advances to be gained in our and the Nijar Basin, SE Spain (Dabrio et al., 1981;
understanding of carbonate platforms, and in the Warrlich et al., in press) where Upper Miocene
prediction of their stratigraphy, from a re-investigation carbonate ramps change up-section into reef rimmed
of their classification? This paper presents evidence platforms. From the subsurface, seismic and borehole
that indicates that it is time to re-examine carbonate data from the western margin of the Great Bahama
platform classification because: Bank also indicate an up-section change from a
Miocene ramp to a Pliocene rimmed shelf (Eberli et
a) we now know there are some inherent limitations al., 1997; Betzler et al., 1999; Reijmer et al., 2002).
in the structure of the current classification, and Such changes are thought to be due to changes in
b) many advances have been made in our under- climate and oceanographic factors that change the
standing of what controls the siting, and the nature of the shallow-water carbonate factory from
morphological and stratigraphic evolution of bioclastic, skeletal production to a shallow-water,
carbonate platforms. framebuilding photozoan reef community (for review
see Pomar, 2001). If the term carbonate platform is to
Wilsons scheme for classifying carbonate plat- embrace the entire carbonate buildup from internal
forms (Bosence and Wilson, 2003) is based on the stratigraphy to external depositional surface then the
external morphology of platforms (Fig. 1) that are terms ramp and rimmed shelf are limited in use as
typified as bcarbonate rampsQ or bcarbonate shelf they describe the morphology of the different margins
with local buildupQ (now generally referred to as at particular periods of time but they do not character-
rimmed carbonate shelves sensu Read, 1985). ise the entire platform.
However, the more we study carbonate platforms Advances in our understanding of the controls on
the more we realise that these apparently funda- the morphology and stratigraphy of entire platforms
mentally different types of platform are in fact have come from both field-based studies of good
rather closely related to one another, both spatially quality outcrops together with subsurface seismic data
and temporally. where the basinal setting, overall 3-D morphology,
Ramps and rimmed shelves are related spatially in broad-scale stratigraphy and stratigraphic evolution
some unattached platforms (e.g. Liuhua, Miocene; S. can be studied. Significantly, more and more studies
China Sea; Erlich et al., 1993) and some attached have been undertaken on carbonate platforms from
platforms (e.g. Florida shelf, Holocene, Florida, tectonic settings other than the well-documented
southern USA; Bosence and Wilson, 2003). In both passive continental margins. In particular, a number
these platforms one margin is reef-rimmed and steep- of PhD and MSc theses at Royal Holloway University
sided (the eastern margin of Liuhua and the south- of London have focussed on the facies models and
eastern margin of Florida) whilst the opposing margin sequence stratigraphy of carbonate platforms from
of the platform, in each case, is a ramp. Students of different tectonic settings (Dart, 1991; Pedley, 1994;
carbonate sedimentology might well ask: if ramps and Wilson, 1995; Cross, 1996; Watchorn, 1997; Bantan,
rimmed shelves are the two main types of carbonate 1999; Gherardi, 1996; Lokier, 2000).
platforms then which category do the well known It is shown in this paper how eight different
platforms of Florida and Liuhua fit into? The terms genetic types of carbonate platforms characterise the
ramp and rimmed shelf are useful terms for describing different major classes of sedimentary basins;
the morphology of the platform margins but are less maritime rift, passive margin, mature ocean, fore-
successful at describing the overall character of the arc, island arc, back-arc, foreland and intracratonic.
carbonate platform. The reason for focussing on the Cenozoic Era is
52 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

that the tectonic setting is generally, well-docu-

mented, which is not always the case for older
examples, and because this work is largely based on
personal experience. It does not imply that Meso-
zoic and Palaeozoic examples do not occur; they
do, and some are referred to in this paper but their
documentation is left to future work.

2. Genetic types of carbonate platforms

Although it is generally recognised that the largest

and possibly the most studied carbonate platforms in
the world today, such as the Bahamian platforms (e.g.
Schlager and Ginsburg, 1981) and the Great Barrier
Reef (e.g. Davies et al., 1989), occur in passive Fig. 2. Tectonic settings of carbonate platforms discussed in this
margin settings, by no means all platforms occur in paper. For examples of different platform types see Table 1.
this geotectonic environment. Read (1985) mentioned
and illustrated platforms in arccontinent and con- foreland margin). The section below outlines the
tinentcontinent collisional settings and gave Meso- characteristic features of eight different types of
zoic and Palaeozoic examples of carbonate platforms carbonate platform developed in different tectonic
developing over extensional faults. This latter type of and basinal settings using examples from the
platform has been studied in more detail to the extent Cenozoic; both ancient and modern. These sections
that a facies and sequence stratigraphic model has differ in their detail and length reflecting the current
been developed for carbonate platforms developing knowledge of these different platform types. Their
over tilted fault-blocks by Leeder and Gawthorpe occurrence in different classes of sedimentary basin
(1987), Bosence (1998), Bosence et al. (1998b), is given in Table 2.
Brachert et al. (2002), and Ruiz-Ortiz et al. (2004).
A more comprehensive view of the variety of 2.1. Fault-block platforms (Fig. 3A)
tectonic settings in which Cenozoic carbonate plat-
forms are known to occur was provided by Wilson Carbonate platforms that develop on subsiding and/
(2002) for platforms in Southeast Asia and is given or rotating fault blocks have been described and
in Fig. 2 and detailed in Table 1. Each of these interpreted from a number of Cenozoic extensional
eight platform types are described and discussed in basins. The most detailed studies come from the rifted
the section below. The diversity of settings of margins of the Gulf of Suez and northwest Red Sea
platform occurrence indicates that the controlling (Burchette, 1988; James et al., 1988; Purser et al.,
factors for the accumulation of carbonates are not 1998; Bosence et al., 1998b; Cross et al., 1998). Here,
too demanding. Essentially carbonate platforms can Mid Miocene carbonate platforms developed on fault-
be shown to occur in both low and high latitude, blocks rotated during Miocene extension and sub-
shallow-marine settings where siliciclastic or volca- sidence of this rift basin. Early stages of rifting are
niclastic supply is reduced for a number of reasons, largely dominated by siliciclastic sedimentation with
such as: isolation from clastic supply by an sediment transport mainly controlled by the evolving
intervening water mass (offshore bank, volcanic extensional fault systems and their oblique transfer
pedestal, salt diapir), isolation through funnelling zones (Purser et al., 1998). Transfer zones and
and localisation of clastics (fault-block, thrust-top, hangingwall sub-basins generally persist as sites of
salt diapir), isolation through intermittent clastic clastic sediment accumulation (but see below)
supply (arid climate delta-top), low relief hinterland whereas footwall areas and horsts, isolated from
and low clastic supply (passive/subsiding margin, clastic supply, accumulate subtropical, photozoan
Table 1
Shapes, sizes, stratigraphic features and examples of different Cenozoic carbonate platform types discussed in text
Platform types Platform morphology Platform size Cenozoic examples (for details see text)
Plan Cross-section Length Width Thickness
Fault-Block Rectilinear Wedge-shaped 8 km 3 km b130 ma Red Sea, Gulf of Suez, Gulf of Aden,
Trapezoidal 100 km 50 km b1000 mb Malta, SE Spain, North Cyprus,
Polygonal 14 km 3 km 800 mc Southeast Spain, South China Sea,
Java Basin, NE Australia
Salt Diapir Circular, arcuate, Inverted bowl/saucer Irregular shapes from 1 to 140 450 md Salif (Yemen), Farasan (Saudi Arabia),
amoeboid, elongate with (convexo-convex) with km across (southern Red Sea) (Farasan) Daghlak (Eritrea), NW Red Sea (Egypt),
subcircular embayments large thickness variations Garden Flower Banks, Gulf of Mexico
and reentrants
Subsiding Margin Elongate and tracking Sigmoidal with thousands of hundreds of bkms NW Australian shelf, Brasilian shelf,

D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

(or attached) coastline progradational kilometres kilometres SE USA shelf, Mediterranean margins,
geometries Murray Basin
Offshore Bank Equant, amoeboid, Hat to bell-shaped tens to hundreds of kilometres Bahama Banks, Rockall Bank
(or unattached) rectangular, polygonal (plano-convex) with across, up to 6600 m thicke
Volcanic Pedestal Circular; isolated or Inverted bowl/saucer 19 km 12.5 b1400 mf Anewetak, Comoro, Bermuda,
amalgamated (convexo-convex) 2200 km 300 km 131400 mg Muaruroa, Mauritius. Reunion, Hawaii
2 km 1.5 km b50 mh Emporer chain, Maldives, Saya de
Malha, Las Negras, El Hoyazo
Thrust-Top Elongate, lenticular Lenticular, inverted tens of kilometres kms b80 m Southern Cyprus, Central Sicily, SE
and sheet-like saucer-shaped (convexo- (Not well constrained, see text) Spain (Betic Cordillera)
convex), sigmoidal and
Delta-Top Lenticular, arcuate Sigmoidal and lenticular 8 km 3 km 40 mi NW Red Sea, Gulf of Aqaba, Gulf of
50 km 5 km 5 mj Suez, Central Sicily, Fortuna Basin,
Pyrenean Basin (Spain), Borneo.
Foreland Margin Ribbons following Lenticular to sigmoidal hundreds of b100 m b1200 mk Alps, S. Pyrenees, Arabian Gulf,
foreland margin with aggradational and kilometres Apennines, Himalayan Foredeep, Timor
palaeogeography backstepping geometries Trough, Papuan Basin
Outcropping sizes of fault-block platforms (n=9) of Red Sea and Gulf of Suez in Purser and Bosence (1998).
Maximum outcropping size of Tonasa fault-block platform, Indonesia of Wilson et al. (2000).
Malampaya platform (Grotsch and Mercadier, 1999).
Southern Red Sea (Bantan, 1999).
Great Bahama Bank (Schlager et al., 1988; Walles, 1993).
Sizes recorded for 10 Pacific and Indian Ocean volcanic pedestal platforms (Vacher and Quinn, 1997).
Maldives (Purdy and Bertram, 1993).
El Hoyazo (Warrlich et al., in press).
Sharm al Behary, NW Red Sea (Purser et al., 1998).
Centelles, Spain (Taberner and Bosence, 1995).

From Sinclair (1997).
Table 2
Occurrence of carbonate platform types in different classes of sedimentary basins
Platform type Basin type
Rift Passive margin Mature ocean Fore-arc Back-arc Foreland Strike-slip Intracratonic
Fault-Block Red Sea, Gulf N.E. Australia S. Java Sulawesi, Carboneras
of Suez, Gulf S. China Sea,

D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

of Aden Vietnam
Salt Diapir Red Sea, S. Gulf Gulf of Mexico Arabian Gulf
of Suez
Subsiding Margin Australian shelf, Murray
(or attached) Brasilian shelf, Basin
SE USA shelf,
Offshore Bank Red Sea Bahama Banks,
(or unattached) Queensland,
Rockall Bank
Volcanic Pedestal Pacific, Indian, S. China Sea Carboneras-
and Atlantic Nijar
Thrust-Top Southern SE Spain
Cyprus, (Betic Cordillera)
Delta-Top NW Red Sea, Central Borneo Southern Pyrenees, Gulf of
Gulf of Suez, Sicily, Fortuna Basin, Aqaba
Gulf of Aden, (S. Spain)
Foreland Margin Pyrenees Alps,
Betics, Himalayas,
Arabian Gulf
D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972 55

carbonates (Fig. 3A). The platforms are rectilinear to progradational geometries but these may not develop
trapezoidal in plan shape with average, exposed (i.e. in footwall margins because of the steep, fault-related
mapped distances) width to length ratios of ~10 (Table slopes and relatively deep footwall basins.
1) and maximum stratigraphic thicknesses of 130 m in Holocene examples include the abundant reef-
the Red SeaGulf of Suez. Within the platforms, rimmed platforms of the Red Sea and Gulf of Suez
rimmed-shelves characterise the fault-truncated foot- such as the offshore platforms north of Jeddah, Shoab
wall margins to fault-blocks whereas hangingwall dip- Ali, and Sanganeb Atoll (but as a horst, with two
slopes are ramps and generally pass down-dip into faulted margins with distinct windward and leeward
hangingwall basin clastics (Fig. 3A). Fault accom- margins) as reviewed by Dullo and Montaggioni
modation zones, such as that preserved on the (1998).
southern margin of Abu Shaar (Cross et al., 1998) The Gulf of Suez and Red Sea maritime rift basin
have low relief and show progradational carbonate examples are probably the best exposed and studied
platform geometries, or are dominated by through- examples of fault-block platforms but there are also
flowing, fan-deltas or submarine fans (Fig. 3A; Purser fine examples of rifted platforms from extensional
et al., 1998; Bosworth et al., 1998). Fault-blocks may settings in other maritime rifts. Subsurface examples
be attached to the rift margin, detached (or unattached imaged in seismic sections showing the overall
sensu Fig. 1) to the margin but influenced by marginal platform morphology and broad stratigraphic geo-
clastic supply or unattached and in an axial location. metries that are consistent with the outcrop data
In the latter case (e.g. Gebel Zeit) the platform come from the early Neogene of the Gulf of Aden
drowned and was overlain by deeper-water Mid (Brannan et al., 1997), the Malampaya buildup,
Miocene marls (Purser et al., 1998). Seaward-facing, Shikoku Basin, southeast Asia (Grotsch and Mer-
footwall platform margins are commonly coralgal, cadier, 1999; Fournier et al., 2005).
reef-rimmed as are shallow (inner) ramp sites on the Whereas the examples and model presented above
hangingwall (Fig. 3A). Ooid shoals form margins less come from fault-block platforms in maritime rifts
commonly. Footwall platform-slopes in these Egyp- these platforms also occur where extensional fault-
tian examples are only exposed in their upper parts blocks are formed in passive margins of NE Australia
and comprise reef and platform-top bioclastic and (e.g. Davies et al., 1989), back-arc basins of Indonesia
intraclastic talus, with a composition reflecting the and South China Sea (e.g. Wilson, 1995, 2002;
coeval platform-top stratigraphy. Slope sediments are Wilson and Bosence, 1996, 1997; Wilson et al.,
commonly cemented, fractured and slumped, and 2000; Erlich et al., 1993; Mayall et al., 1997), fore-arc
Miocene erosion may have removed 100 m to (Lokier, 2000), and a transtensional strike-slip basin
kilometre sized blocks leaving lunate scars (Purser (Brachert et al., 2002) (Table 2).
and Plaziat, 1998) and a truncated footwall stratig-
raphy (Burchette, 1988; Cross et al., 1998). Platform- 2.2. Salt diapir platforms (Fig. 3B)
top facies are bedded bioclastic and peloidal wacke-
stones, packstones and rudstones with scattered patch Salt diapirism can result in shallow-marine sites
reefs. These are arranged in unconformity-bound that may be isolated from siliciclastic supply thus
depositional sequences; some of which can be providing suitable substrate for platform growth.
demonstrated to be of tectonic origin (Bosence et Cenozoic examples come from diapirs of Miocene
al., 1998b; Cross et al., 1998). Such sequences thicken salt in the Red Sea (Bosence et al., 1998a; Orszag-
down hangingwall dip-slopes and thin onto footwall Sperber et al., 1998) and of Jurassic salt in the Gulf of
sites where sequence boundaries converge (Fig. 3A). Mexico (Rezak et al., 1985). The rise of diapirs
They consequently have wedge-shaped geometries relative to base level results in sea floor highs that
with stacked reefal facies cut by sequence boundaries develop into domes, islands and intervening mini-
in footwall sites and coeval shallowing-upward basins. If the domes enter into the zone of significant
sequences separated by flooding surfaces on hanging- carbonate production they develop circular or ring-
wall dip-slopes. The shallower slopes in hangingwall shaped carbonate platforms or atolls (Fig. 3B). Where
dip slopes and accommodation zones result in salt movement is related to extensional faults in the
56 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972
D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972 57

Fig. 3. Tectono-stratigraphic models for A) Fault-Block carbonate platforms, B) Salt Diapir platforms, C) Subsiding Margin platforms and D)
Offshore Bank, or unattached platforms, E) Volcanic Pedestal platforms, F) Thrust-Top platforms, G) Delta-Top platforms and H) Foreland
Margin platforms (for details of each platform type see text and Table 1).
58 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

Red Sea then salt walls and more elongate platforms islands. Similarly, depositional sequences have com-
are developed (Orszag-Sperber et al., 1998) with plex 3-D geometries with local thickening and thin-
associated horst and graben. The stratigraphy and ning. Sequence boundaries converge over positive
sedimentology of platforms developing over salt diapers and eroded vertical strata on diapir walls, and
diapirs have been studied in outcrops along the diverge into minibasins (Fig. 3B). Vertical movements
northern coast of Yemen (Davison et al., 1996; are rapid (35 m/ky; Bosence et al., 1998a). Exten-
Bosence et al., 1998a) and the Farasan Islands sional faulting, including horst and graben, occurs over
offshore southwestern Saudi Arabia (Bantan, 1999). areas of salt movement and many areas of the
These are complemented by outcrops of salt diapir stratigraphy are blistered and brecciated (Fig. 3B).
platforms from the opposing margin of the southern Other examples, that do not have the documented
Red Sea in the Dahlak Islands, offshore Eritrea record of stratigraphic geometries are the Garden
(Carbone et al., 1998). Flower Banks of the Gulf of Mexico. Here, Jurassic
The southern Red Sea is dominated by the salt diapirs generate shallow, sub-circular to elongate
morphologically similar groups of islands known as highs on the seafloor. In detail they have the same
the Farasan and Dahlak archipelagos that mirror each arcuate arms and circular embayments that are seen in
other on the eastern and western shelves respectively. the Red Sea examples which both result in a circular
These comprise low relief, reef-fringed, late Cenozoic to amoeboid shaped structures in plan view. In the
limestone islands. These islands, and the surrounding Gulf of Mexico the positive areas reach water depths
submarine topography, are commonly circular carbo- of 2050 m and accumulate biogenic carbonate
nate platforms that have circular or arcuate bays and sediment that contrasts with the siliciclastic muds of
promontories in plan view (Fig. 3B). The shapes the surrounding seafloor at and below 100 m (Rezak
(sometimes amoeboid) are too complex to quantify but et al., 1985). The carbonate facies comprise a complex
the platforms vary from 1 km across at Salif (Bosence mosaic of coral and coralline algal communities and
et al., 1998a) to 140 km across at Dhalak Kebir mollusc and foraminifer-rich bioclastic sands with
(Carbone et al., 1998). The margins to these platforms local brine pools. The carbonates are faulted and
are largely steep-sided and coral-reef rimmed (Bantan, brecciated by salt movement and downslope, gravita-
1999; Carbone et al., 1998) with bioclastic sands and tional movement of sediment off the platforms.
gravels on exposed shelves and internal lagoons with These Cenozoic examples provide useful ana-
seagrass meadows and fine-grained carbonates. Out- logues for presumed subsurface salt diapir platforms
crops at Salif in northwest Yemen indicate colonisation from the Cretaceous offshore Brazil (Guardado et
of the irregular dissolved upper surface of the salt al., 1990), Gabon (Teisserenc and Villemin, 1990)
diapir by reef corals and molluscs (Bosence et al., and the Late Jurassic of Texas (Montgomery, 1996),
1998a) indicating that the diapir has moved up into the USA. In these examples the critical interpretation to
zone of shallow-marine photozoan carbonate produc- be made is whether the limestones were simply
tion. Carbonate stratigraphies are up to 450 m thick involved with later salt tectonics, or whether the
and most exposed successions commonly shallow- platforms were growing during salt movement, and
upwards. To achieve this stratigraphic thickness on a thus had their stratigraphy and platform development
substrate that is rising in relation to regional base level, controlled by the salt diapirism. The latter case has
the platforms must subside as well as rise and been demonstrated above for the Cenozoic examples
unconformities over circular diapirs are described from the Red Sea. In the restoration of Albian
from Farasan (Bantan, 1999; Bosence et al., 1998a). platforms occurring as isolated segments on top of
Seismic sections illustrate multiple onlap and surfaces Aptian salt, offshore Gabon by Eichenseer et al.
adjacent to diapirs indicating the balance between (1999) it is assumed that all deformation was post
diapir growth, subsidence and platform production platform growth. They were able, to a large extent,
(Bosence et al., 1998a). The stratigraphy of the to refit the Albian platform blocks back to their
platforms is complex with rapid lateral and vertical original positions but gaps in the restoration and
facies changes in these shallow-water, biogenic local thickness changes may suggest some Aptian
carbonates reflecting the complex morphology of the syn-diapiric, segmentation of the platform.
D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972 59

Salt diapir platforms are only documented to date into a flat-topped carbonate platform with a prograda-
from early rift (Red Sea) to passive margin (Gulf of tional leeward margin and erosional, and reefal,
Mexico and Atlantic margins) settings but salt diapirs windward margin (Eberli and Ginsburg, 1987,
are known to locally control present-day carbonate 1989). The very large accommodation space for these
sedimentation in the foreland margin carbonate plat- platforms is likely to be a combination of thermal
form of the Arabian Gulf. These are described as subsidence, sediment and water loading, and com-
bbathymetric highsQ and bsalt-dome islandsQ by Purser paction (Bott, 1992). Eberli and Ginsburg (1987,
(1973) because they are circular highs that rise from 1989) demonstrated with seismic sections that the
the surrounding sea-floor. The highs comprise con- large structure that is seen today was formed from
centrically arranged carbonate facies belts around the earlier platforms that coalesced through leeward
salt diapirs; the evidence for a salt core comes from progradation. The platform-top stratigraphy comprises
exposed salts on some islands and exotic lithoclasts shallow-water photozoan carbonates truncated by
mixed within the modern skeletal carbonates down- unconformity-bound, depositional sequences that are
current from the seafloor highs. subhorizontal (Fig. 3C and D). The facies have been
studied in great detail (e.g. Ginsburg and Lowenstam,
2.3. Subsiding margin platforms and offshore carbo- 1958; Purdy, 1963; Mullins and Neumann, 1979;
nate banks (Fig. 3C and D) Schlager and Ginsburg, 1981; Ginsburg, 2001) and
are also summarised in many textbooks as classic
Passive margin basins are generally considered to examples of modern tropical carbonates (e.g. Tucker
be the major site of carbonate platform formation (e.g. and Wright, 1990; Wright and Burchette, 1996;
Tucker and Wright, 1990; Einsele, 1992). It is here Bosence and Wilson, 2003). These sequences and
that the largest and most extensively studied Cenozoic the related leeward prograding slope deposits are
platforms come from such as the FloridaBahamas interpreted to form during relative, or eustatic (Eberli
region (e.g. Schlager and Ginsburg, 1981; Ginsburg, and Ginsburg, 1989) sea level highstands with low-
2001), the Great Barrier Reef (e.g. Davies et al., 1989) stands generating sequence boundaries. They also
and the NW shelf of Australia (Butcher, 1990). The show that the leeward margin of this platform evolved
dominant controls on the sedimentology and stratig- from a Miocene distally steepened ramp to a rimmed
raphy of these platforms are the low rates, or carbonate shelf; a common feature of subsiding
localisation, of siliciclastic supply from the adjacent margin platforms (Read, 1985; Fig. 3C).
mature continental landscape, for attached platforms, The extensive carbonate shelves of Australia
or isolation from clastic supply in offshore banks, developed passive margin platforms over rifted and
subsidence at relatively slow rates in the Cenozoic siliciclastic-dominated Mesozoic basement. The
(~0.030.04 m/ky, from Schlager and Ginsburg, 1981) northwest shelf preserves a mid-Eocene to Recent
as well as regional or eustatic sea-level changes. As carbonate platform stratigraphy as a northwesterly
these controls are seen in both attached platforms (Fig. thickening wedge that progrades and aggrades many
3C) and offshore bank platforms (Fig. 3D) from these tens of kilometres into the Indian Ocean. Inner-shelf
settings, they are grouped together in this section. areas show parallel to oceanward diverging reflectors
The FloridaBahamas area has a pre-Cenozoic and outer-shelf areas progradational packages that
history that can be traced back to Jurassic carbonate diverge to the Indian Ocean (Butcher, 1990). In the
platforms establishing themselves on the newly rifted latest Miocene the outer continental shelf is subjected
margin of the North Atlantic (Sheriden et al., 1988). to increased subsidence from loading of the Indone-
Since that time up to 5 km of sediment has sian arc leading to tectonically induced deepening. A
accumulated in the flat-topped platforms of the more detailed view is provided by Cathro et al. (2003)
Bahama Banks that are tens to hundreds of kilometres who document the progradational clinoform front of
across in dip and strike sections (Schlager and the evolving shelf margin and slope that, at the
Ginsburg, 1981; Ginsburg, 2001). Despite earlier seismic scale, produce essentially progradational,
(pre Miocene?) faulting the platform has essentially shelf depositional sequences. These, however, do not
aggraded to sea level, or wave base, and developed always fill accommodation space, and sequence
60 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

boundaries are not of subaerial origin demonstrating Borch, 1991; James et al., 1994). The adjacent Murray
that shelf-wide heterozoan production on an ocean- Basin (SE Australia) is an intracratonic basin with
ward-facing shelf can produce a clinoform rollover at warm temperate carbonates forming much of the
around 100 m (Cathro et al., 2003). The northeastern Murray Supergroup (Lukasik et al., 2000; Lukasik
Australian shelf has a more complex basin history and and James, 2003). The laterally extensive facies belts
is discussed later in the paper (see Discussion). (tens to hundreds of kilometres, Lukasik et al., 2000)
At a smaller scale, outcrop studies from the and laterally persistant, parallel sided, metre-scale
Miocene of the western Mediterranean basin illustrate cycles (Lukasik and James, 2003) suggest affinities
carbonate platform growth on passive, subsiding with attached, Subsiding Margin platforms. The north-
margins on an eroded Alpine basement (Pomar, east Atlantic has an extensive cool-water, Holocene
1993; Pomar and Ward, 1999; Pomar et al., 2002). carbonate shelf (e.g. Shetland shelf; Light and Wilson,
The stratigraphy comprises a lower distally steepened, 1998) and offshore bank (Rockall Bank; Scoffin et al.,
Tortonian ramp that outcrops on Menorca (Pomar et 1980) today but siliciclastic supply was too high earlier
al., 2002) and a reef-rimmed late Tortonian to in the Cenozoic for widespread carbonates to have
Messinian platform that outcrops mainly in Mallorca accumulated.
(Pomar, 1993; Pomar and Ward, 1999). A high
energy, relatively deep, wave-base controls sequence 2.4. Volcanic pedestal platforms (Fig. 3E)
stacking patterns within the ramp (cf. Cathro et al.,
2003) whereas hierarchical sets of sigmoidal shaped Oceanic volcanos, being shallow-water sites iso-
units deposited on the platform top, reef slope and lated from siliciclastic input, are common sites for
fore-reef area characterise the reef-rimmed platform. carbonate platform development. Volcanic Pedestal
The platform-top sequence boundaries are sub-hori- platforms were first studied by Darwin (1842) and
zontal and sub-parallel and platform-slope stratal significant recent contributions come from the Mal-
packages are progradational and agradational (Pomar, dives in the Indian Ocean (Purdy and Bertram, 1993)
1993; Pomar and Ward, 1999). The construction of and from the HawaiianEmporer Chain in the Pacific
this 20 km wide and several 100 m thick reef-rimmed (Grigg, 1982, 1997). In these sites accommodation for
platform as a basinward-thickening wedge is funda- platform growth is provided by thermal subsidence of
mentally controlled by the interaction of high-fre- the oceanic crust and volcanic pedestal. This has
quency sealevel changes and background subsidence resulted in 2200 and 2400 m of shallow-water
and shallow-water photozoan carbonate production, carbonate platform stratigraphy in the Maldives and
and has been numerically modelled as such (Bosence the Saya de Malha Bank respectively (Purdy and
et al., 1994). The change from ramp to rimmed shelf is Bertram, 1993), 13001400 m in Anewetak (Quinn
interpreted as a change in the location of the shelf and Saller, 1997) and 180450 m in the Mururoa
carbonate factory from mid shelf (heterozoan, rhodo- volcanic pedestal platform in the Pacific (Buigues,
lith belt) production on a ramp to shallow photozoan 1997). Platform morphology is initially controlled by
(coralgal reef) production for the rimmed platform in morphology of the volcanic edifice and varies from
response to climatic changes (Pomar, 2001; Pomar et subcircular (e.g. Anewetak; Quinn and Saller, 1997;
al., 2002). Reunion, Mayotte and Mauritius; Camoin et al., 1997)
These platforms, as their name implies, come to elliptical (Bermuda; Vacher and Rowe, 1997) (Fig.
exclusively from mature passive (or subsiding) ocean 3E) to a complex of amalgamated volcanic pedestals
basin margins. The stratigraphies with their character- and subcircular volcanic pedestals with an intervening
istic (tens of kilometres) progradational geometries graben (Maldives; Purdy and Bertram, 1993). Sizes
(Fig. 3C and D) indicate production rates in excess of vary from single edifice platforms (average 18.6
the relatively low subsidence rates recorded for passive m12.5 m measured across reef rim for 10 volcanic
margin settings. They are known from both low and pedestal platforms in Vacher and Quinn (1997) to
high latitude settings with the southern margin of 2200 m300 m to platforms developing from
Australia being the best example of a cool-water, amalgamated volcanic edifices such as the Maldives
passive margin carbonate platform (James and von der (Purdy and Bertram, 1993). Stratigraphic geometries
D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972 61

in these low latitude Volcanic Pedestal platforms are 1981; Franseen et al., 1998; Warrlich et al., in press).
largely aggradational (Fig. 3E) and to an extent Here, at Las Negras, Miocene platform growth is
progradational from reef-rimmed margins enclosing found to be restricted by steep submarine basement
extensive lagoons (Purdy and Bertram, 1993; Warrlich slopes and progradation was favoured on lower angle
et al., 2002). Limited progradational geometries occur slopes. At Nijar a small, elongate ridge (31 km) of
where the substrate slopes are at lower angles. In the dacite forms the substrate for the Miocene atoll of El
Maldives more progradation occurs towards the Hoyazo (Dabrio et al., 1981; Warrlich et al., in press).
Inland Sea platform margins than towards the Indian This small platform has progradational geometries
Ocean facing margins where steep slopes descend to along the ediface but steep (288), thin, slope deposits
oceanic depths. These relatively small platforms occur where basement slopes are high coming off the
surrounded by waters, many thousands of metres in dacite ridge (Warrlich et al., in press).
depth, clearly limit the extent to which progradation
can occur (Fig. 3E). The slopes are unstable and show 2.5. Thrust-top platforms (Fig. 3F)
slumps, slides and chaotic reflectors on seismic
sections (Purdy and Bertram, 1993). Some present- Carbonate platforms developing over thrusts and
day Volcanic Pedestal platform margins have near thrust folds have been described and interpreted from
vertical walls of cemented and encrusted reef and compressional settings in the Miocene of the eastern,
bioclastic debris resulting from a combination of reef central and western Mediterranean Basin. Such plat-
aggradation, lowstand erosion, rapid late Cenozoic forms are not extensive laterally, or of great thickness,
sea-level rises and sediment bypassing (Dullo et al., as might be expected from carbonate platforms
1998). growing on a substrate that is rising through the
There do not appear to be any examples of ocean shallow-marine carbonate factory.
basin Volcanic Pedestal platforms in high latitude From southern Cyprus, Robertson et al. (1991) and
settings. Grigg (1982, 1997) argued that a combina- Follows et al. (1996) described carbonate platforms of
tion of decreasing production rates, climate change, Miocene age as two members (Terra and Koronia) of
island morphology and sea-level history causes the Pakhna Formation. These reefal limestones are
drowning of Hawaiian atolls as they are carried mapped out as elongate bodies parallel to compres-
northward on the Pacific plate. The highest latitude sional folds and faults within this fore-arc setting.
Cenozoic volcanic pedestal platform currently Although the outcrops are not extensive (E. Follows,
reported from an oceanic setting is Bermuda personal communication, 2003) the platforms map out
(32820VN). This island also lies at the northern limit to rest unconformably on eroded earlier strata and to
of present-day coral reef growth and preserves about be up to 10 km long and a few km wide (cf. Fig. 3F).
100 m of carbonates overlying 33 Ma volcanics Coralgal patch reefs (b80 m thick), slumped reef
(Vacher and Rowe, 1997). Approximate subsidence blocks and heterozoan packstones and grainstones
rates based on depths and strontium isotope ages of comprise the shallow-water facies. These are adjacent
Anewetak atoll carbonates in the Pacific suggest to slope facies of redeposited shallow-water facies
Eocene rates of 0.05 to 0.13 m/ky decreasing to a (Follows et al., 1996). These are associated with
Miocene to Recent rate of 0.02 m/ky (Quinn and ophiolite-derived conglomerates and pass downslope
Saller, 1997). Schlagers (2000) review of accumu- into hemipelagic marls. Robertson et al. (1991)
lation rates for cool-water carbonates measured over invoked global sea-level rise in the Tortonian for the
geological timescales indicates rates from 0 to 0.1 m/ accommodation space for platform growth above the
ky which suggests that rates of carbonate production thrust tops.
are not sufficient to cope with the relatively high, but Similar aged (Tortonian to Messinian) reefal plat-
exponentially decreasing, subsidence rates on these forms developed in the fore-arc (Caltanissetta) basin
structures in these oceanic settings. of Sicily where the occurrence of carbonates is
In addition to oceanic settings volcanic pedestal controlled by thrust generated sea-floor ridges (Grasso
platforms are also reported from the strike-slip Nijar and Pedley, 1988; Pedley, 1996). Bioclastic photozoan
Carboneras Basin of southeast Spain (Dabrio et al., carbonates of the Terravechia Fm. and interbedded
62 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

arc-derived, siliciclastics reach up to 70 m in thickness following basement fractures and fault transfer zones,
and occur as sheets or lenses above the southeasterly Purser et al., 1998). At Sharm el Behari a long-lived
thrusted, Oligo-Miocene, Numidian Flysch (Grasso (Late Oligocene to Recent) fluvial system that
and Pedley, 1988). These platform carbonates com- deposited continental and then marine fluvio-deltaic
prise patch reefs, reef-derived breccias and associated sediments formed the substrate for later platform
bioclastic packstones. They are intimately interbedded growth. A Mid Miocene fan delta with 30 m foresets
with clays and conglomerates. Reefs and breccias progrades southeastwards through a half-graben
prograde to the south away from the thrust front and towards the NE Red Sea. These comprise coarse
into the basin. Whilst the origin, and large scale conglomerates passing downslope to marls. Coralgal
morphology of the Terravechia platform relates to its patch reefs (b10 m thick) colonise the upper part of the
thrust-top geotectonic setting (Pedley, 1996) in detail delta cone which subsequently forms the substrate for
the facies and platform geometries are controlled by a larger (8 km3 km) onlapping carbonate platform
underlying siliciclastic deltaic morphologies (Grasso with up to 40 m of shallow-marine and peritidal facies
and Pedley, 1988) and these carbonates are discussed (Purser et al., 1998). They (Purser et al., 1998) along
again in the following section (delta-top platforms). with Roberts and Murray (1983) working in the Gulf
In the foreland (External Zone) margin of the Betic of Suez considered that the intermittent, coarse,
Cordillera, SE Spain, Beets (1992) described and siliciclastic supply from these semi-arid drainage
interpreted coralline algal-rich carbonates that are systems was an important feature that allowed
localised over emergent thrust-related highs. These carbonates to accumulate in such settings.
heterozoan carbonates form units 550 m thick that Small Quaternary platforms and reefs also develop
fringe and onlap unconformities on anticlinal ridges along the tops and slopes of deltas in the strike-slip
(cf. Fig. 3F). These Lower Miocene limestones are basin of the Gulf of Aqaba (Gvirtzman et al., 1977;
themselves folded, capped by a hardground, and Roberts and Murray, 1983; Dullo and Montaggioni,
onlapped by uppermost Lower to Mid Miocene marls, 1998). The morphology of the delta and the channels
indicating a syntectonic origin of the platform lime- on the delta-top control the pattern of reef growth as
stones. Dating of the platforms indicates progressively corals preferentially colonise channel and delta
older thrust-top platforms towards the foreland margin margins. However, active channels prevent reef
in line with the expected foreland propagation of growth and instead provide down-slope pathways
thrusts (Platt, 1988). for the export of reef and clastic debris to deeper water
sites (Dullo and Montaggioni, 1998; Fig. 3G).
2.6. Delta-top platforms (Fig. 3G) Because of the intermittent nature of clastic supply,
reefs destroyed by flash floods are able to recolonise
In spite of the fact that the rate of siliciclastic or continue to grow elsewhere. In addition, these
supply appears to be an overriding control on the authors consider that periods of turbid flood-waters
occurrence of shelf carbonates (Hay et al., 1988), are too brief to influence reef growth.
deltas building out into shallow-marine areas are These small, delta-top platforms are useful ana-
recurring sites of carbonate platform and reef develop- logues for the delta-top platforms in the fore-arc basin
ment. Examples are known from both semi-arid (e.g. of the Miocene of Sicily described by Grasso and
Red Sea; Purser et al., 1998) and humid (e.g. Borneo; Pedley (1988; see also previous section). Here fluvial
Wilson and Lokier, 2002, and Belize; Ferro et al., systems, draining off, and between, emergent thrust
1999) low latitude settings. High latitude, cool-water slices, develop distributary channels on deltas with
carbonates are apparently unreported from this setting. reefs growing on channel margins and small platforms
A number of examples have been described from developing on the delta top. These were considered by
the Miocene to Recent of the Red Sea, Gulf of Suez Grasso and Pedley (1988) to grow during phases of
and Gulf of Aqaba basins. In this semi-arid climate eustatic sea-level rise in the late Tortonian. Platforms
setting fluvial discharge is intermittent and generally are reconstructed with an arcuate shape in plan and are
carries a coarse load and there is a strong tectonic sigmoidal in cross-section following the morphology
control on the pathway of drainage systems (e.g. of the deltas (cf. Fig. 3G).
D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972 63

Santisteban and Taberner (1988) described a record mud-rich delta clastics that pass up-section
number of Tortonian platforms that are developed into coral reef facies. Palaeoecological analysis by
over fan-deltas entering the Fortuna Basin of south- Wilson and Lokier (2002) suggests that particular
east Spain. Reefs are developed over lobate marine, carbonate producing communities are adapted to
proximal, fan-delta conglomerates. They are arcuate, turbid, low light level waters of likely increased
and elongate parallel to the coastline over distances nutrient content and are therefore able to persist in
of 105000 m, up to 200 m wide, but only a few this muddy deltaic environment.
metres thick. They interfinger with delta lobes Although lacking in detail at this stage, Ferro et al.
laterally indicating synchronous delta and reef (1999) interpret high resolution seismic images,
accumulation as in the Gulf of Aqaba examples supported by cores, that lowstand fan deltas from
(above and in Fig. 3G). the last glacial maximum in the English Cay channel
Eocene examples come from the Pyrenean foreland area of Belize formed the substrate for subsequent
basin where deltas build out from both northern and reefs. During the postglacial sea-level rise reefs
southern margins in an equatorial to semi-arid setting became established on these lowstand deltas (Ferro
(Santisteban and Taberner, 1988; Taberner et al., et al., 1999) as well as surrounding preexisting,
1999). Small platforms and reefs develop over the karstified reefs. These reefs and associated siliciclas-
deltas during a number of phases of relative sealevel tics form part of a much larger Subsiding Margin
rise. These are mapped as arcuate in shape and up to platform (see Discussion).
50 m thick. Well-exposed platforms are up to 50 km To conclude, there appear to be different controls
wide and 5 km from proximal to distal margins on the ability of small carbonate platforms to develop
(Taberner and Bosence, 1995). Marls form in more on delta tops and slopes. In semi-arid settings with
distal platform slopes, reef-rims are common and coarse intermittant supply, clastics and clear water
back-reef to lagoonal areas accumulate mudmounds, carbonate systems can coexist; however in humid
and coral, mollusc and nummulite grainstonesrud- climates with continuous mud-rich supply carbonate
stones. Shorewards the carbonates interbed with and clastic systems can coexist through hydrological
distributary channel sands, (Taberner and Bosence, isolation and adaptive strategies of biogenic carbonate
1995). A main control on the occurrence of these producers. Alternatively, clastic and carbonate sys-
platforms appears to be sea-level as carbonate systems tems can be isolated in time by the reciprocal
are commonly found to be characteristic of sea-level occurrence of carbonates in transgressive and high-
highs and siliciclastics of sea-level lows. stand periods and clastics in falling stages and
The back-arc basin of equatorial east Borneo lowstands.
provides a contrasting setting. Here, Wilson and
Lokier (2002) provide Miocene examples, and 2.7. Foreland margin platforms (Fig. 3H)
Roberts and Sydow (1996) a modern example, of
Delta-Top carbonate platforms. Both relate to the The foreland or distal margin of low-latitude,
Mahakam Delta which is fed by an essentially large underfilled foreland basins is a favoured site for the
and continuous supply of clay- to silt-sized particles. accumulation of large carbonate platforms (Pigram et
On the modern delta a combination of active al., 1990; Dorobek, 1995; Sinclair, 1997). The
southern lobes and a southerly flowing current controls on the recurrence of platforms in this location
encourage carbonate sedimentation in the northern relates to their initial isolation from major siliciclastic
part of the delta front. Coral patch reefs develop on supply in an extensive area of marine shelf generated
seaward margins of delta mouth bars and distal in response to flexural loading by the orogenic wedge
settings accumulate Halimeda and foraminiferal on the proximal side of the basin (Fig. 3H).
buildups in waters down to 100 m. Outcrops and Depositional topography and therefore carbonate
cores indicate carbonate facies going back to the facies patterns constantly evolve in response to this
Neogene in this setting (Roberts and Sydow, 1996). differential loading (Dorobek, 1995). This persistent
Mid Miocene limestones are exposed in sections differential loading continually creates accommoda-
through anticlinal ridges within the delta. These tion space along the depositional profile and is likely
64 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

to be the reason why most foreland margin carbonate platform margins are normal to the orogenic wedge as
platforms are ramps (Fig. 3H). As the loading in the Papuan Basin between NE Australia and Papua
increases at any one place, through advance of the New Guinea (Davies et al., 1989; Pigram et al., 1990).
orogenic wedge, the foreland margin platform must Here, the northern margin of the temperate climate,
either aggrade faster to keep pace with increasing Eocene and Oligocene Subsiding Margin platform
subsidence, backstep or drown (Dorobek, 1995; converges into the Papuan Foreland Basin in the mid
Galewski, 1998). Significantly, small-scale cycles Oligocene. Following a basal unconformity, and
are developed within these ramp successions that coincident with the migration of the platform into a
may either shallow-up, or deepen-up (Pedley, 1994; tropical belt, Neogene carbonates on the NE Australian
Pedley et al., 1996). Deepening-upward cycles are not margin aggrade or backstep in response to loading of
common in tropical, photozoan carbonates and this the northern orogenic wedge, normal to the carbonate
may well reflect the increased subsidence rates in platform. Some Neogene foreland margin platforms
foreland margins. Because basin subsidence contin- such as the AshmoreBootPortlok platform were able
ues, with accompanying increasing rates of clastic to persist with aggradational geometries through to
supply, drowned or backstepped platforms are today, possibly due to their open marine setting with a
unlikely to re-establish themselves at the same site likely optimum reefal carbonate production rate. This
on foreland margins. Modelling rates of carbonate contrasts significantly with the backstepping Palae-
accumulation against rates of foreland basin subsi- ogene platforms of the Alpine basins of NW Europe
dence and different rates of orogenic advance Dor- that are dominated by large benthic foraminifer and
obek (1995) indicated that foreland platforms at any coralline algal carbonate producing communities of
one site will drown within a few million years but that likely lower production rates.
the composite platform is diachronous, becoming Local variations in the controls on foreland margin
younger and younger towards the foreland (Fig. platform stratigraphies include syndepositional exten-
3H). This is well demonstrated from the extensive sional (Sinclair, 1997), strike-slip (Dorobek, 1995) or
examples from the Eocene to Oligocene foreland emergent thrust faults (Beets, 1992) and from anti-
platform of the Alps (Sinclair, 1997) where the upper clinal highs in the foreland that may be from inherited
surface of the ramp carbonates is a sharp or transi- structures or salt diapirism as in the Pyrenean foreland
tional passage into deeper-water globigerinid marls. basin (Luterbacher et al., 1991; Pedley, 1994; Pedley et
High rates of siliciclastic supply sourced from the al., 1996) and the Holocene of the Arabian Gulf
advancing orogenic wedge, onlap, overlie and bury (Purser, 1973, see also Salt Diapir Platforms).
the platforms at the base of the foreland basin fill
(Sinclair, 1997). Based on flexural rigidity, foreland
topography and photic zone depths for carbonate 3. Discussion
production Dorobek (1995) proposed that foreland
margin platforms should be less than 100 km wide but 3.1. Occurrence of platform types within sedimentary
this will vary with eustatic sealevel changes, tectonic basins
history, etc. Thicknesses of these platforms are
moderate; tens to hundreds of metres, but up to The distribution of different platform types pro-
1200 m in the Papua New Guinea basin (in Sinclair, posed in this paper with respect to sedimentary basin
1997). Lengths are determined by basin size and classes is given in Table 2. The wide range of
platforms may be hundreds of kilometres along and occurrences of platforms in different basin types (also
around the basin margin (e.g. Alps, Sinclair, 1997; shown in Fig. 2) has not been fully appreciated before
Arabian Gulf, Purser, 1973; Papua New Guinea, as most texts focus on the better-known examples
Pigram et al., 1990) which results in a ribbon shaped from passive-margin settings. Only one platform type
morphology for the entire platform (Table 1; Fig. 3H). (Foreland Margin) has a unique occurrence and most
Major variations in the stratigraphic fill are depend- platform types are more promiscuous in their occur-
ant upon the angle of convergence within a foreland rence and are found across a range of commonly
basin. Backstepping will be highly diachronous if recognised basin classes (e.g. Fault-Block platforms
D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972 65

occur in rift, passive margin, fore-arc, back arc and platforms; there is always a choice in the way
strike-slip basins). Most sedimentary basins (barring geoscientists can carve at the joints in natural systems,
foreland basins) are therefore not characterised by the limited occurrence of platforms in different basin
unique types of carbonate platform. However, most classes (the large number of blanks in Table 2)
classes of sedimentary basin have a set of carbonate suggests an overriding control on platform type by
platform types that is unique; i.e. rift basin carbonate the tectonic or basinal setting. Conversely, the
platforms have little in common with mature ocean, carbonate platforms within each of these basins will
fore-arc or foreland basin carbonate platforms but they provide significant information on the evolution of
have more similarities with platforms from back-arc that basin in terms of palaeoenvironments, differential
basins. subsidence and evolution of accommodation space.
Also significant is the limited occurrence of plat-
forms from some basin types. Examples of carbonate 3.2. Hierarchy of tectonic controls
platforms in strike-slip basins appear to be rare and
this may reflect the rapid subsidence and uplift rates This paper proposes the common recurrence of
recorded in these basins. This results in a steep basin eight genetic types of carbonate platforms. This comes
margin topography and high clastic sediment supply from the synthesis of stratigraphic data from Cenozoic
and accumulation. Nilsen and Sylvester (1995) report platforms from around the world that have been shown
accumulation rates of 2.53.0 m/ky in their review of above to have distinctive basinal or tectonic settings,
strike-slip basins which is near the upper limit for morphology and stratigraphic geometries. Whereas the
tropical carbonate production (Schlager, 2000). Tor- platforms are presented in this paper as distinct
tonianMessinian carbonate platforms are described models, in reality platforms may show features
from the transtensional, Carboneras sub-basin, in characteristic of different types because within any
southeast Spain, by Brachert et al. (2002). They one setting different tectonic processes may be
provide details of facies relations and depositional operating and at different scales. In such cases it may
sequences in a platform dissected by extensional be possible to recognise intermediate types or primary
faults. The exposures provided a good integrated and secondary tectonic controls. An example of the
view of facies and sequences in adjacent footwall and former is where extensional faults act as pathways for
hangingwall areas. Holocene examples come from the salt diapirism so that fault blocks are also salt diapirs as
Gulf of Aqaba but here only the surface geology has is found in the Miocene of the southern Gulf of Suez
been studied. Dullo and Montaggioni (1998) (Orszag-Sperber et al., 1998; Bosworth et al., 1998).
described thin fringing-reefs from this narrow, One such example of the latter case is the Belize
strike-slip basin that have steep, fault-related forereef platform. Seismic sections and borehole data indicate
slopes and the reefs are displaced by Holocene faults, a long-lived Cretaceous to Recent attached platform
including a 1995 coseismic fault. with some interbedded marginal clastics and a reef-
There appears to be only one example of a rimmed margin (Purdy et al., 2003). The Barrier
Cenozoic platform from an interior plate (intracra- Platform has essentially horizontal reflectors, passing
tonic) basin, the Murray Group limestones from the oceanward to sigmoidal shaped reflectors of the
Murray Basin, SE Australia. This is despite their platform margin. These characters and the scale of
abundance in these settings in the past such as the the platform indicate a Subsiding Margin platform.
Devonian of the Williston Basin, USA, Permian Basin However, the platform is also cut by transpressional
of West Texas and the Zechstein of the North Sea and transtensional faults that can be seen from
Basin. Their rarity in the Cenozoic appears to be a associated seismic geometries to be syndepositional
reflection of the specific arrangements of plates and structures (Purdy et al., 2003) and are the likely
plate boundaries in the Cenozoic with few intra- mechanism for the formation of the Dangriga Trough
cratonic basins occurring in low-latitude marine and shelf lagoon. Also on a smaller-scale is the local
settings. control of Holocene facies distribution by a precurser
Whereas the pattern of occurrence of platforms is karst topography (Purdy, 1974; Purdy et al., 2003),
in part due to the chosen method of classification of combined with syndepositional faulting (Purdy et al.,
66 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

2003), or, siliciclastic channels (Choi and Ginsburg, carbonate sedimentationQ. This was later discussed by
1982), or, a combination of faulting and Quaternary Read (1985) who examined the processes whereby
incised valleys and intervening highs with reefs and ramps on rifted margins evolved into rimmed carbo-
shoals (Esker et al., 1998). Ferro et al. (1999) nate shelves on passive margins (see also Ginsburg,
indicate that the foundations of some of the barrier 2001; Reijmer et al., 2002). Read (1985) also
reefs are siliciclastic delta lobes suggestive of Delta- discussed the evolution of ramps and rimmed shelves
Top platforms. in collisional settings. What is clear from this is that
This platform therefore shows a complex hierarchy carbonate depositional systems are robust enough to
of controls and of platform types. The Mesozoic exist in a range of plate tectonic settings and to
development of the platform on the southern margin survive the changes that take place as maritime rifts
of the Caribbean would appear from its overall evolve into mature ocean basins and subsequently
geometry and stratigraphy to be a Subsiding Margin undergo collision (Fig. 2).
platform. Within this setting strike-slip tectonics In this paper a more detailed genetic classification
driven by the westerly movement of the Caymen of platform types based on their tectonic and basinal
Trench oceanic crust against the Yucatan basement setting allows the concepts of Read (1985) to be
generated transtensional and transpressive structures developed further. In situations where rifted continen-
that control some parts of the carbonate platform tal margins evolve into subsiding margins of ocean
development (Purdy et al., 2003), and the interaction basins any carbonate platforms on this margin would
of local-scale faulting, drainage systems and karstic be expected to show a stratigraphic evolution from
morphology has acted as a control on the distribution one set of platform types to another. On a rifted
of Quaternary facies within this long-lived platform. marine margin Fault-Block, Salt Diapir and Delta-Top
A simpler case comes from the southern carbonate platforms are the common types of platforms that
shelf of the Arabian Gulf has two main tectonic occur (Table 2) as has been shown for the Gulf of
controls on its origin. The entire platform conforms to SuezRed SeaGulf of Aden. The platforms of this
a Foreland Margin platform (Tables 1 and 2; Purser, basin would be predicted to evolve into Subsiding
1973) but locally the stratigraphy is pierced by salt Margin platforms if the basin were to evolve into a
diapirs from the Hormuz salt and these develop small mature ocean basin. An example of this is seen in the
(kilometre scale), bathymetric highs on the present- evolution of the Atlantic margins from the Jurassic
day sea-floor with many of the features of Salt Diapir and Cretaceous through to the Recent. The Jurassic of
platforms. The foreland margin can be said to be the the NW Atlantic margin shows a continental to
primary tectonic setting that controls the entire Fore- marine, rifted-margin and diapiric structures are
land Margin platform and the salt diapirs are the known to underlie the Blake Plateau of Florida
secondary local control as well as sea-level history (Sheriden et al., 1988) that is now a drowned,
and environmental variations within the Gulf. Subsiding Margin platform. Similarly, the early stages
These examples indicate that a hierarchy of scale of evolution of the Bahama Bank are known to be
exists within the proposed platform types. Subsiding fault segmented (Eberli and Ginsburg, 1987) prior to
Margin and Foreland Margin platforms, by defini- its evolution into an Offshore Bank platform. Further
tion, are both large-scale basin margin structures south in the subsurface of the Cretaceous in Brazil,
that may in some cases (e.g. Belize and Arabian Guardado et al. (1990) documented platforms devel-
Gulf) be made up in part by a number of smaller oping over fault-blocks and salt diapirs that evolve
platform types (e.g. Fault-Block, Salt Diapir, Delta- into extensive Subsiding Margin platforms later in the
Top). This situation is explored further in the Cretaceous.
following section. In a more complex history the extensive carbonate
shelves of northeast Australia develop on a Creta-
3.3. Evolution of platform types ceous rifted basement. An attached Subsiding Margin
platform (Great Barrier Reef) and Offshore Bank
Wilson (1975) emphasised that ramps commonly platforms (Marion and Queensland Plateaus) devel-
evolved into rimmed shelves as ba normal process of oped diachronously as the subsiding margin moved
D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972 67

northward with plate movement. This carried the the nature and origin of platforms, provide models
platforms into warmer waters so that the northern for the interpretation of less well exposed, or
GBR accumulated tropical carbonates from the understood examples, and serve as templates to aid
Oligocene onwards. However, the southern part in the understanding of subsurface, seismically
shows a transition from temperate to tropical carbo- imaged examples. The classification identifies eight
nates in the Late Miocene. Seismic profiles indicate main types of carbonate platform:
early (northern) phases of platform growth as Fault-
Block platforms, but later stratigraphies develop large- 1) Fault-Block Platforms develop mainly in mar-
scale, oceanward thickening wedges of carbonates itime rift basins such as the Red SeaGulf of Suez
with flat platform top geometries typical of Subsiding and specifically on the footwall highs to rotating
Margin platforms. However, this platform type does fault-blocks. As fault-blocks rotate in shallow-
not persist because of the collision with Papua New marine areas wedge-shaped depositional sequen-
Guinea that developed a foreland basin to the north ces are formed that thicken in carbonate ramp
(Davies et al., 1989) and a Foreland Margin carbonate stratigraphies down hangingwall dip slopes and
platform. The entire northeastern margin shows thin onto footwall highs. Footwall areas are
evidence of increased rates of subsidence from the commonly reef- or shoal-rimmed margins.
mid Miocene onwards with subsidence rates reaching 2) Salt Diapir Platforms occur over the rising salt
0.04 to 0.14 m/ky (Davies et al., 1989). This diapirs and are found in maritime rifts, passive
subsidence may be in part responsible for the margins and foreland basins. The platforms have
drowning of the Marion Plateau to south and the distinctive circular, arcuate or amoeboidal shapes
large amount of unfilled accommodation space on the in plan with complex internal stratigraphic geo-
GBR and Queensland Plateau farther north. metries. These are controlled by the rise and fall
of the diapir and salt dissolution at the sea-floor.
Depositional sequences shallow-upwards in
4. Conclusions aggradational stratigraphies responding to the
relative shallowing of the rising diapir.
This paper reviews the wide range of tectono- 3) Subsiding Margin Platforms develop as very
sedimentary environments within which Cenozoic extensive and thick platforms on passive margins
carbonate platforms occur. Previous works and such as the Atlantic and the western, eastern and
classifications have focused on platforms from southern Australian shelf. Subsiding Margin plat-
passive (subsiding) margin and ocean island settings forms are known to occur in both cool and warm-
but platforms are also known to occur in maritime water climatic settings in the Cenozoic. Low
rifts, fore-arc, back-arc, foreland, strike-slip and subsidence rates mean that stratigraphic geo-
intracratonic basins. Based on this review it is metries are largely progradational and sequence
apparent that the overall morphology, size and boundaries subhorizontal reflecting their forma-
stratigraphic evolution of carbonate platforms is tion from eustatic or regional sealevel falls.
primarily controlled by their basinal or tectonic 4) Offshore Bank (or unattached) Platforms also
setting. Biotic evolution, sea-level history and occur in passive margin settings where the base-
climatic factors (Pomar, 2001) play a role in ment may comprise an earlier Fault-Block plat-
determining smaller-scale features within the plat- form. As with Subsiding Margin platforms they
forms such as grain types, facies, depositional are characterised by low subsidence rates and
sequences and the nature of some platform margins. progradational depositional sequences. Depend-
A classification is proposed that is genetic, being ing on climatic setting they may have strong
based on the main tectonic controls on platform differentiation into erosional, or reefal, windward
origin, rather than on the morphology of the margin margins and progradational leeward margins and
that forms the basis of the current classification into slopes.
rimmed-shelves and ramps. The new classification 5) Volcanic Pedestal Platforms, which often form
should clarify understanding and communication on atolls, develop as thick aggradational carbonate
68 D. Bosence / Sedimentary Geology 175 (2005) 4972

platforms over thermally subsiding oceanic vol- types occur and a hierarchy of scale exists whereby
canos. They are common in tropical ocean waters the large-scale Subsiding Margin and Foreland Mar-
of the Indo-Pacific. These platforms are steep gin platforms may comprise elements of other plat-
sided, surrounded by deep waters and therefore form types (e.g. Salt Diapir platforms). Contrary to
develop little progradation. Margins are charac- common opinion it is shown that carbonate platforms
terised by slumps and redeposited carbonates. are widespread in their occurrence in different classes
Sequence boundaries are subhorizontal over the of sedimentary basin and most sedimentary basins are
platform top and are likely to reflect eustatic sea- characterised by particular associations of carbonate
level falls. platform types. Where basin margins evolve from one
6) Thrust-Top Platforms develop in compressional geotectonic setting to another (e.g. rift to passive
tectonic settings where bathymetric highs over margin) it can be shown that the carbonate platform
thrust sheets move into a shallow-marine setting. types also change.
The platforms are ribbon-like in plan and of
limited thickness on this rising substrate. Rede-
posited slope deposits are generated off the Acknowledgements
platforms which may be intermixed with eroded
basement lithoclasts. Such platforms are known The ideas behind this paper come from research at
from fore-arc and foreland basin settings in the RHUL into what drives the large-scale formation and
Oligo-Miocene of the Mediterranean region. structure of carbonate platforms and I wish to thank
7) Delta-Top Platforms form where deltas enter my colleagues and research students within the
shallow-marine settings. They have a complex dBasins GroupT for opportunities and discussions
and intimate association with the deltaic clastic arising from our field-based research programmes in
deposits, have distinctive arcuate plan shapes and the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Mediterra-
limited stratigraphic thicknesses. In arid areas nean area. Funding for this research has come from a
with coarse, intermittant clastic supply, carbo- number of sources over the years and in particular I
nates and clastics can coexist as is the case in the wish to acknowledge grants from the British Council,
Cenozoic of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba. In BP Exploration, European Union, NERC, Royal
humid areas (e.g. southeast Asia) where clastic Society, Shell International, Southeast Asia Group
supply is continuous, and finer-grained, specific (RHUL), TotalFinaElf and the University of London.
carbonate-producing communities occur that can My original manuscript has benefited considerably
tolerate such conditions and thrive in the rela- from thoughtful and appropriate comments and
tively cleaner delta front sites. criticisms from reviewers Maurice Tucker and Jeff
8) Foreland Margin Platforms uniquely form in Lukasik and Sedimentary Geology editor John
foreland basins where large, relatively clastic-free Reijmer and I thank them for their input.
shelf areas exist on the distal margin. High
subsidence rates from the advancing orogenic
wedge mean that platforms onlap onto the fore-
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