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Sedimentology, sequence-stratigraphy, and geochemical variations in the Mesoproterozoic Nonesuch Formation, northern Wisconsin, USA

June 26, 2017

We use core descriptions and portable X-ray fluorescence analyses to identify lithofacies and stratigraphic surfaces for the Mesoproterozoic Nonesuch Formation within the Ashland syncline, Wisconsin. We group lithofacies into facies associations and construct a sequence stratigraphic framework based on lithofacies stacking and stratigraphic surfaces. The fluvial-alluvial facies association (upper Copper Harbor Conglomerate) is overlain across a transgressive surface by the fluctuating-profundal facies association (lower Nonesuch Formation). The fluctuating-profundal facies association comprises a retrogradational sequence set overlain across a maximum flooding surface by an aggradational-progradational sequence set comprising fluctuating-profundal, fluvial-lacustrine, and fluvial-alluvial facies associations (middle Nonesuch through lower Freda Formations). Lithogeochemistry supports sedimentologic and stratigraphic interpretations. Fe/S molar ratios reflect the oxidation state of the lithofacies; values are most depleted above the maximum flooding surface where lithofacies are chemically reduced and are greatest in the chemically oxidized lithofacies. Si/Al and Zr/Al molar ratios reflect the relative abundance of detrital heavy minerals vs. clay minerals; greater values correlate with larger grain size. Vertical facies association stacking records depositional environments that evolved from fluvial and alluvial, to balanced-fill lake, to overfilled lake, and returning to fluvial and alluvial. Elsewhere in the basin, where accommodation was greatest, some volume of fluvial-lacustrine facies is likely present below the transgressive stratigraphic surface. This succession of continental and lake-basin types indicates a predominant tectonic driver of basin evolution. Lithofacies distribution and geochemistry indicate deposition within an asymmetric half-graben bounded on the east by a west-dipping growth fault. While facies assemblages are lacustrine and continental, periodic marine incursions are probable, especially across maximum transgressive surfaces.

We demonstrate a sequence-stratigraphic approach may be applied to fine-grained Precambrian sediments using traditional rock description and supporting lithogeochemistry. Identification of a characteristic lithofacies succession in Mesoproterozoic sediments demonstrates fundamental controls commonly interpreted for Phanerozoic lake systems may be extended into the Precambrian. These controls result in a predictable association of lithofacies, with distinct physical, biological, and geochemical properties. This has regional significance for carbon sequestration and the distribution of mineral and hydrocarbon resources and broader significance for addressing Mesoproterozoic paleogeographic reconstructions and questions related to the evolution of terrestrial life.

Publication Year 2017
Title Sedimentology, sequence-stratigraphy, and geochemical variations in the Mesoproterozoic Nonesuch Formation, northern Wisconsin, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.precamres.2017.03.023
Authors Esther Kingsbury Stewart, Jeffrey L. Mauk
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Precambrian Research
Index ID 70188830
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center