Carbonate breccias occur sporadically in the Lower-Middle Ordovician Maggol Limestone exposed in the Taebacksan Basin, South Korea. These carbonate breccias have been previously interpreted as intraformational or fault breccias. Thus, little attention has been focused on tectonic and stratigraphic significance of these breccias. This study, however, indicates that the majority of these breccias are solution-collapse breccias, which are causally linked to paleokarstification. Carbonate facies analysis in conjunction with conodont biostratigraphy suggests that an overall regression toward the top of the Maggol Limestone probably culminated in subaerial exposure of platform carbonates during the early Middle Ordovician. Extensive subaerial exposure of platform carbonates resulted in paleokarst-related solution-collapse breccias in the upper Maggol Limestone. This subaerial exposure event is manifested as a major paleokarst unconformity elsewhere beneath the Middle Ordovician sequence, most notably North America and North China. Due to its global extent, the early Middle Ordovician paleokarst unconformity ('the Sauk-Tippecanoe sequence boundary') has been viewed as a product of second-order eustatic sea level drop during the early Middle Ordovician. Although we recognizes a paleokarst breccia zone in the upper Maggol Limestone beneath the Middle Ordovician sequence, the early Middle Ordovician sequence boundary appears to be a conformable transgressive surface or a drowning unconformity, rather than a major paleokarst unconformity. The paleokarst breccia zone in the upper Maggol Limestone is represented by a thinning-upward stack of exposure-capped tidal flat-dominated cycles that are closely associated with multiple occurrences of paleokarst-related solution-collapse breccias. The paleokarst breccia zone in the upper Maggol Limestone was a likely consequence of repeated high-frequency sea level fluctuations of fourth- and fifth-order superimposed on a second- and third-order eustatic fall in sea level that was less than the rate of tectonic subsidence across the platform. It suggests that second- and third-order eustatic sea level drop may have been significantly tempered by substantial tectonic subsidence near the end of Maggol deposition. The tectonic subsidence in the basin is also evidenced by the occurrence of coeval off-platform lowstand siliciclastic quartzite lenses as well as debris flow carbonate breccias. With the continued tectonic subsidence, subsequent rise in the eustatic cycle caused drowning and deep flooding of carbonate platform, forming a conformable transgressive surface or a drowning unconformity on the top of the paleokarst breccia zone. This tectonic implication contrasts notably with the slowly subsiding carbonate platform model for the Taebacksan Basin as previously interpreted. Here we propose that the Taebacksan Basin evolved from a slowly subsiding carbonate platform to a rapidly subsiding intra-continental rift basin during the early Middle Ordovician. This study also provides a good example that the falling part of the eustatic sea-level cycle may not produce a significant event at all in a rapidly subsiding basin where the rate of eustatic fall always remained lower than the rate of subsidence.
- Carbonate breccia
- Middle ordovician (Maggol Limestone)
- Taebacksan Basin (South Korea)
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