Palynofacies and sea-level changes in the Upper Cretaceous of the Vocontian Basin, southeast France

Annette E. Götz, Susanne Feist-burkhardt, Katrin Ruckwied

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Upper Cretaceous platform carbonates of the Vocontian Basin (southeastern France) have been investigated in a cross-section from the proximal deposits exposed in the lower Rhône Valley to the distal part of the basin in the Southern Subalpine Ranges north of Nice. The stratigraphic interval studied in detail spans the uppermost Turonian and Coniacian.

Palynofacies patterns were used to detect eustatic signals at a third-order scale and are the tool for correlation of proximal and distal platform deposits. The organic constituents observed in the studied samples have been grouped into a continental fraction, including higher plant debris (phytoclasts) and sporomorphs, and a marine fraction with dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs, prasinophytes, and foraminiferal test linings. The main factors influencing the stratigraphic and spatial distribution of land-derived, allochthonous, and marine, relatively autochthonous, organic particles are the proximity of land, the organic productivity, the degree of biodegradation and the hydrodynamic conditions of the depositional system. Palynofacies parameters used for the sequence stratigraphic interpretation are: (1) the ratio of continental to marine constituents (CONT/MAR ratio); (2) the ratio of opaque to translucent phytoclasts (OP/TR ratio); (3) the phytoclast particle size and shape; and (4) the relative proportion and species diversity of marine plankton. Ternary diagrams illustrating significant proximality changes were used to decipher transgressive-regressive trends within the succession.

High amounts of translucent phytoclasts and decreasing values of the CONT/MAR ratio occur during the phase of relative sea-level rise in the upper Turonian. The stratigraphic interval of maximum flooding around the Turonian/Coniacian boundary is marked by the highest abundance and species diversity of dinoflagellate cysts, and by high percentages of opaque, equidimensional particles within the phytoclast group. The OP/TR ratio is still high within the lower Coniacian representing the early highstand deposits, whereas the relative abundance of marine constituents is again decreasing. Sedimentary organic matter of the upper Coniacian is dominated by large, blade-shaped, mainly opaque phytoclasts, which are a characteristic palynofacies signature of late highstand deposits.

The present study demonstrates the high potential of palynofacies analysis in high-resolution stratigraphy and correlation of sedimentary series of shallow epeiric seas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1057
JournalCretaceous Research
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Palynofacies and sea-level changes in the Upper Cretaceous of the Vocontian Basin, southeast France'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this