Environments and Facies
Look at the photo of Scott Creek Beach at:
Note that the antidunes are forming in one part of a creek. The middle of the creek has upper planar lamination flow speeds, and the closest part is very shallow and has some antidunes again. (I know some of this from being there more than from looking at the photo.) Note that there is a faint lamination present in the eroding bench on the far side of the creek. This lamination mimics the beach surface. It is lamination from the waves swashing and transporting sediment on the beach. If all sediment transport stopped immediately, one would see a suite of sedimentary structures: Antidunes and upper planar laminae next to each other in the creek, an erosional surface overlying planar stratification that undulates like a beach. The association of these features would tell you that the sediment was deposited in an environment with a variety of flow conditions.
The suite of structures forms a facies. A facies (Latin for aspect or appearance) is a body of rock (i.e. a sequence of beds, etc.) or sediment marked by a particular combination of compositional, physical and biological structures that distinguish it from bodies of rock/sediment above, below and adjacent to it. A sedimentary facies has a characteristic set of properties that makes it distinctive, which the geologist defines. Usually facies are defined based on a suite of characteristics in rocks/sediment.
Facies vs Environments - By grouping characteristics of the rocks into facies, the depositional environments can be more easily compared and interpreted. It is important to remember that the sedimentary environment is the combination of physical, chemical and biological processes that influence sediment deposition, whereas sedimentary facies are the characteristics of the rocks/sediments after deposition. It is the difference between a water flow speed of 20 cm/sec and high angle cross stratification; the stratification is the result of high flow speed, but they are not the same.
Facies are groupings of rock types based on similar features. We use these groupings to generalize individual properties into useful, genetically related categories. Some examples include:
Facies based on grain size:
Coarse-grained sandstone with 1-5% pebbles (suggests high flow speeds)
Fine-grained, well-sorted sandstone (suggests low flow speeds with either only one size sediment source or a consistent flow speed)
Mudstone (suggests standing water)
Facies based on sedimentary structures:
Fine-grained sandstone with current ripple cross lamination
Fine-grained sandstone with upper planar lamination
Fine-grained sandstone lacking cross stratification, but with abundant burrows
Facies based on grain composition:
Coarse-grained sandstone with 25% lithic fragments, 25% feldspar, and 50% quartz
Coarse-grained sandstone with 80% quartz, 10% mica, and 10% feldspar
Coarse-grained sandstone with 99% quartz and trace gold flakes
Beach Facies What features did we see on the field trip to Bodega Bay beaches? How should we divide those into facies? We can compare them to what we would see in the rock record. Take a look at photos of Scott Creek Beach stratification again: http://mygeologypage.ucdavis.edu/sumner/gel109/sedstructures/Beach.html Predict some of the facies.
From Sediment Transport to Rocks - We have been talking about sediment transport and structures. These are processes that influence sedimentary rocks. What we really need is to be able to use our understanding of the processes to interpret ancient rocks when we can no longer see the processes in action. As I mentioned in the first class, we can use the modern processes as a model for interpreting past processes, which is the Principle of Uniformitarianism. However, it is often very different to see a process going on than it is to look at the ultimate deposited rock and interpret the process. For example, with bed forms, the entire shape of the structure you see as it migrates is rarely preserved. Instead, you only see a small part of it, if you get any sediment accumulation at all. Thus, we can also start the interpretation from the rock end by describing the general characteristics of the rocks and interpret flow from things like grain size, preserved cross stratification, and biogenic components. Then we can evaluate which environments are consistent with those characteristics.