Aptian palaeoclimates and identification of an OAE1a equivalent in shallow marine environments of the southern Tethyan margin: Evidence from Southern Tunisia (Bir Oum Ali section, Northern Chott Chain)
Godet et al
Alternations between siliciclastic, carbonate and evaporitic sedimentary systems, as recorded in the Aptian mixed succession of southern Tunisia, reflect profound palaeoceanographic and palaeoclimatic changes in this area of the southern Tethyan margin. The evolution from Urgonian-type carbonates (Berrani Formation, lower Aptian) at the base of the series, to intervals dominated by gypsum or detrital deposits in the remainder of the Aptian is thought to result from the interplay between climate change and tectonic activity that affected North Africa.
Based on the evolution of clay mineral assemblages, the early Aptian is interpreted as having been dominated by slightly humid conditions, since smectitic minerals are observed. Near the early to late Aptian boundary, the onset of a gypsiferous sedimentation is associated with the appearance of palygorskite and sepiolite, which supports the installation of arid conditions in this area of the southern Tethyan margin. The evaporitic sedimentation may have also been promoted by the peculiar tectonic setting of the Bir Oum Ali area during the Aptian, where local subsidence may have been tectonically enhanced linked to the opening of northern and central Atlantic. Stress associated with the west and central African rift systems may have triggered the development of NW–SE, hemi-graben structures. Uplifted areas may have constituted potential new sources for clastic material that has been subsequently deposited during the late Aptian.
Chemostratigraphic (δ13C) correlation of the Bir Oum Ali succession with other peri-Tethyan regions complements biostratigraphic findings, and indicates that a potential expression of the Oceanic Anoxic Event (OAE) 1a may be preserved in this area of Tunisia. Although the characteristic negative spike at the base of this event is not recognized in the present study, a subsequent, large positive excursion with δ13C values is of similar amplitude and absolute values to that reported from other peri-Tethyan regions, thus supporting the identification of isotopic segments C4–C7 of the OAE1a. The absence of the negative spike may be linked to either non preservation or non deposition: the OAE1a occurred in a global transgressive context, and since the Bir Oum Ali region was located in the innermost part of the southern Tethyan margin during most of the Aptian, stratigraphic hiatuses may have been longer than in other regions of the Tethys. This emphasizes the importance of integrating several stratigraphic disciplines (bio-, chemo- and sequence stratigraphy) when performing long-distance correlation.