Scientific Webinars

Seds Online Great Debate (SOGD 4): The Origin of Carbonate Mud

John Reijmer (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Laura O’Connell (Southern Illinois University), Paul Wright (National Museum of Wales), Linda Kah (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

The origin of carbonate mud is a topic of debate between two main theories: biogenic and abiogenic origin. The biogenic side suggests that carbonate mud is primarily formed from the accumulation of skeletal debris and fecal pellets of marine organisms such as foraminifera, mollusks, and corals, among others. This position also proposes that microbial activity plays a crucial role in carbonate precipitation, dissolution, and re-precipitation.On the other hand, the abiogenic side proposes that carbonate mud is primarily formed from the precipitation of inorganic minerals, such as aragonite and calcite, through physical and chemical processes in the marine environment. This position suggests that sedimentation and diagenesis play significant roles in the formation and alteration of carbonate mud.

While both positions have some evidence to support them, the debate on the origin of carbonate mud remains in debate. Some scientists argue that both biogenic and abiogenic processes are involved in the formation of carbonate mud, and the relative contribution of each process may vary depending on local environmental conditions. Join us for an exciting debate on the origin of carbonate mud, where Linda Kah, John Reijmer, Laura O’Connell and Paul Wright will discuss and explore the evidence for both biogenic and abiogenic positions.

Where and Why Do Submarine Canyons Develop?

Anne Bernhardt - Freie Universität Berlin

Submarine canyons play a fundamental role in land-to-ocean transport of sediment, pollutants and organic carbon. Moreover, canyons that are connected to terrestrial sediment sources are especially efficient in material routing. We aim to identify the main controls on (1) submarine canyon occurrence along continental margins and (2) whether a canyon head remains connected to terrestrial sediment input during sea-level rise. We assess these problems on a global scale using Bayesian regression and spatial point pattern analysis. One main conclusion is that submarine canyon occurrence increases exponentially with increasing gradient of the continental slope – a parameter that was calculated by smoothly interpolating between the shelf edge and the toe of the continental slope.

Sedimentology Futures: Geoheritage, Planetary Exploration, and Technology

Marjorie A. Chan - University of Utah

Looking forward, the field of sedimentology and its future must include advances in geoheritage, planetary exploration, and technology.

Of foremost importance, the many diverse landscapes where we conduct sedimentology research comprise our geoheritage – the geologic sites or areas with significant scientific, educational, cultural, and/or aesthetic value. Geoheritage sites are vital to advancing knowledge and for understanding geodiversity as well as the biodiversity the land supports. The sedimentary record at many geosites has implications for understanding climate change. Over the last few decades, a rising international geoconservation movement is bringing attention to special geological features with intrinsic value. Sedimentologists need to contribute to good stewardship of important geoheritage sites.

Sedimentology plays a key role in planetary explorations, with the discovery of more sedimentary rocks on Mars and the continuing search for extraterrestrial life. The potential for extraterrestrial life will be enhanced by more studies of microbial life in terrestrial authigenic minerals and their detection as biosignatures. Earth has a life bias throughout over three eons of geologic history, yet analyzing the variability of analogous Earth systems with the sedimentologic context for habitable environments will lead to a better understanding of sedimentary deposits on other planetary bodies.

Finally, technology will continue to change the way we conduct our research from data collection to archiving, processing, visualizing, and sharing. All sedimentology studies can benefit from the use of digital technology, accompanied by open data and more avenues for communicating what our science is about.

The more we can learn from geoheritage landscapes that have strong scientific value, the better we can apply knowledge to planetary explorations. The more we use new digital technologies, the more we can share and make new discoveries. It’s an exciting frontier of sedimentology futures!

Reading history from the Afar : carbonates and evaporites unveil the birth of a future Ocean

Anneleen Foubert - University of Fribourg

Initial rift basins are characterized by heterogeneous sedimentation patters varying at very short spatial and temporal scales. The interaction and feedback between tectonics, surface processes, volcanic events, climate variations and eustasy on sediment flux, sediment deposition and basin dynamics explain their complex stratigraphic architecture. Since the early days of the continental drift theory, the Afar triangle developed into an ideal field laboratory where the onset of continental and future oceanic rifting can be studied in detail. Although known as one of the most active rift regions on Earth and being a young incipient rift basin at the transition between continental rifting and oceanization, Pleistocene and Holocene sedimentary patterns in the Danakil Depression (N Afar, Ethiopia) has been only recently mapped in detail. This presentation discusses the unique sedimentary record in the Danakil Depression and how it contributes to the understanding of the intermittent opening and closure of an incipient rift basin driven by eustatic sea-level fluctuations, multi-episodic differential uplift and volcano-tectonic processes.

The promise of cyclostratigraphy to shed light on Solar System and Earth-Moon dynamics through geologic time

Linda Hinnov - George Mason University

Throughout the history of the Solar System, the planets have undergone quasi-periodic orbital variations dictated by gravitational forcing and chaotic interactions. In addition, the Earth has experienced changes in rotation, shape, precession, and a receding Moon. Earth’s paleoclimate system was forced by insolation, affected by the all of the aforementioned factors, and recorded as cyclostratigraphy. This talk showcases strategies to model these dynamical factors using cyclostratigraphic data, and affirms that cyclostratigraphy hosts a continuous record of Solar System and Earth-Moon dynamics through geologic time.

Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters: The complexity of processes, deposits and stratigraphic architecture in short, steep, conglomeratic gravity current systems

Tim Cullen - University of Bergen

Gravity currents span a broad spectrum of flows with complex variable transport and depositional processes which the community has greatly improved it’s understanding of over the past few decades. However there remains a substantial gap in our understanding of very coarse grained flows with broad grain-size mixtures around the steep slopes typical of active rift margins. In this talk we’ll visit some superb exposures from the Gulf of Corinth rift, Greece and compare these to subsurface and other outcrop examples to highlight this diversity of processes that may occur as a result of the very broad grain-size range within such flows and what this could mean for the role of momentum in governing sediment bypass of different sizes beyond base of slope breaks.

What does the sedimentary record tell us about the future of rivers?

Piret Plink-Bjorklund - Colorado School of Mines

Ancient climate conditions cannot be directly measured, and are rather inferred from proxy data. Proxies are not direct indicators for changes in temperature, precipitation or evaporation, but rather provide indirect evidence for how temperature and hydrological changes impacted the Earth surface or biota. Most widely used climate proxies are geochemical or biological and provide information on mean annual temperature and mean annual precipitation. Here we utilise river sedimentary facies as proxies for precipitation intensity and intermittency, and produce a more realistic representation of past and future precipitation change.

Understanding late Holocene relative sea-level change with mangrove sediments in the western Pacific Ocean

Juliet Sefton - Monash University

Coastal sediments can extend observations of relative sea-level changes beyond the instrumental and historical record. Extending observations with sedimentological data is important at sites without long tide gauge records and limited geological observations. In this seminar I will show how late Holocene mangrove sediment sequences provide us with a record of anomalous relative sea-level rise in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean.

The potential of fluvial carbonates as archives of climate and environmental conditions

Concha Arenas - Universidad de Zaragoza

Fluvial carbonates, i.e. tufas and associated carbonate facies, are widespread in the Quaternary record. At present, they are developed in varied climate and geological conditions, being abundant in mid latitude regions. Results from periodic studies comprising hydraulics, hydrochemistry, geochemistry and sedimentology of modern tufa depositing streams, have demonstrated these carbonate deposits are sensitive to such a wide variety of parameters acting at different time scales; interestingly enough is the fact that laminated deposits represent high-resolution records. Therefore, fluvial carbonate deposits represent multiproxy tools to investigate past climate and environmental conditions (relative to the depositional context) at different temporal and spatial scales. The presentation compares present and past records from several basins.

The Ammonium Ocean following the end-Permian mass extinction

Yadong Sun - GeoZentrum Nordbayern, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

The nitrogenous nutrient in the modern (and most oxygenated) ocean is dominated by nitrate. However, nitrate can be quickly removed during water column deoxygenation. Oceanic nitrate inventory can be greatly reduced during ocean anoxic events. This occurred during the onset of the end-Permian mass extinction and was followed by a shift in oceanic nutrient-N inventory from nitrated dominated to ammonium dominated state. The consequences included a boom of diazotrophs and potentially ammonium toxicity affecting marine animals.

Carbonate diagenesis: What can we learn from experimental work?

Adrian Immenhauser - Ruhr-University Bochum

This presentation documents coupled field, analytical and experimental work with a focus on carbonate diagenesis. Case examples range from speleothems to burial diagenetic carbonates. The potential and limits of state-of-the-art experimental work and its bearing on ancient carbonate archives are documented and discussed.

Virtual field trips, learnings from two years of global pandemics

John Howell - Aberdeen Univestity

Two years ago the the global lockdown accelerated the adoption of virtual field trips. This presentation will review ongoing research on how VFTs compare to traditional trips, what works and what doesn’t, learning outcomes and student satisfaction.

The close relation of carbonate platforms and ocean currents

Christian Betzler - Institut für Geologie, Leitstelle Deutsche Forschungsschiffe

Ocean currents control the growth style of isolated tropical carbonate platforms because surface and contour currents shape the flanks of these edifices. Currents redistribute the off-bank–transported sediment, reduce sedimentation by particle sorting or winnowing, erode slopes, and even are a major driver of carbonate platform drowning. The flanks of isolated carbonate platforms are not only shaped by mass gravity deposits, but equally by contourites with distinct drift and moat geometries which produce specific stacking patterns of platform flank deposits reflecting combined current and gravity processes. This talk will illustrate several examples of such current-controlled tropical carbonate platform systems.

Seds Online Student Webinar (SOSW 6): The impact of climate change on sedimentation

Fatemeh Izaditame, University of Delaware; Valeria Ruscitto, Sapienza Università di Roma; Matthew Staitis, University of Edinburgh

(1) Fatemeh Izaditame, University of Delaware, Climate change impacts on contaminated coastal sediment

(2) Valeria Ruscitto, Sapienza Università di Roma
The contribution of the shallow water record to understanding causes and effects of MECO (Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum)

(3) Matthew Staitis, University of Edinburgh
Accessing the sedimentary record of ocean acidification occur prior to the K/Pg mass extinction


Paired Calcium and Clumped Isotopes, tools to probe changing diagenetic systems

Philip Staudigel - Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Calcium and clumped isotopes are affected by carbonate recrystallization in fundamentally different ways, and are affected by different factors. Here, they are used to study an evolving carbonate margin (Present day western Bahamian slope), in order to quantify the rate of recrystallization and the degree of fluid flow into the margin. Results show that, with the onset of drift deposits in the Straits of Florida, fluid flow into the margin increased a great deal, demonstrating the importance of larger platform structure in governing the nature of diagenetic reactions.

Meteorites and Mass Extinctions: Size doesn’t matter!

Chris Stevenson - University of Liverpool

Meteorite impacts have long been debated as a cause of mass extinction on Earth. When they hit, meteorite impacts load the atmosphere with dust and cover the Earth’s surface with debris. This is thought to trigger ‘Impact Winter’, whereby sunlight is blocked from reaching the earth’s surface leading to catastrophic ecosystem collapse. The bigger the hit, the more severe the effects. But does it really work like that? In this talk I’ll show you that there is actually no correlation between size of impact and extinction intensity over 600 Myrs of multicellular life. Instead, it is the mineralogy of the target rocks that dictates extinction intensity, in particular their K-feldspar content. Weird. To find out how this benign mineral triggers mass extinctions, you’ll have to come along to the seminar!

Recent changes in rates of reef carbonate production and the challenge of measuring reef-derived sediment generation rates

Chris Perry - University of Exeter

In this talk I will provide an overview of recent work that has focused on quantifying how ecological changes have altered rates of carbonate production on modern coral reefs and the impacts for reef growth potential under sea-level rise. The talk will also review the options and challenges that exist in quantifying associated rates of reef sediment generation – a sedimentary component of reefs that contributes not only to reef-building, but also to proximal beaches and islands.