A Mississippian black shale record of redox oscillation in the Craven Basin, UK
Early diagenetic redox oscillation processes have been rarely recognised in the ancient rock record but potentially exert an important control on mineral authigenesis, hydrocarbon prospectivity and supply of metals and/or reduced S as part of associated mineral systems. The upper unit of the Mississippian Bowland Shale Formation is a candidate record of diagenetic redox oscillation processes because it was deposited under a relatively high sediment accumulation rate linked to a large delta system, and under dominantly anoxic and intermittently sulphidic bottom-water conditions. In order to characterise the syngenetic and early diagenetic processes, sedimentological and geochemical data were integrated through the Upper Bowland Shale at three sites in the Craven Basin (Lancashire, UK). Organic matter (OM) comprises a mixture of Type II, II-S, II/III and III OM. ‘Redox zones’ are defined by patterns of Fe-speciation and redox-sensitive trace element enrichment and split into two groups. ‘Sulphidic’ zones (EUX, AN-III, AN-I and AN-IT) represent sediments deposited under conditions of at least intermittently active sulphate-reduction in bottom-waters. ‘Non-sulphidic’ zones (OX-RX, OX-F and OX) represent sediments deposited under non-sulphidic (oxic to ferruginous anoxic) bottom-waters. Operation of a shelf-to-basin ‘reactive Fe’ (FeHR) shuttle, moderated by sea level fluctuation and delta proximity, controlled the position and stability of redoxclines between zones of Fe and sulphate reduction, and methanogenesis. Early diagenetic redoxclines were capable of migration through the shallow sediment column relatively quickly, in response to sea level fluctuation. Preservation of syngenetic and early diagenetic geochemical signals shows redoxclines between Fe and sulphate reduction, and the upper boundary of sulphate-methane transition zone, were positioned within decimetres (i.e., 10 s cm) of seabed. Falling sea level and increasing FeHR supply is recognised as a switch from zones EUX (high sea level), AN-III and ultimately AN-I and AN-IT (low sea level). Zone AN-I defines the operation of ‘redox oscillation’, between zones of Fe and sulphate reduction in shallow porewaters, associated with enhanced degradation of OM and complete dissolution of primary carbonate. Preservation of OM and carbonate, in this system, was a function of changing bottom and pore water redox processes. Redox oscillation operated in a siliciclastic, prodeltaic environment associated with a relatively high sediment accumulation rate and high loadings of labile organic matter and metal oxides. These findings are important for understanding Late Palaeozoic black shales in the context of hydrocarbon and mineral systems.