Slide origin of breccia lenses in the Cambrian of the North China Platform: new insight into mass transport in an epeiric sea

A.J. (Tom) van Loon 1 , Zuozhen Han 2 ,  and Yu Han 3
  • 1 Geological Institute, Adam Mickiewicz University, Maków Polnych 16, 61-606 Poznan, Poland
  • 2 College of Geological Science and Engineering, Shandong University of Science and Technology, Qingdao 266510, China
  • 3 School of Earth Sciences and Resources, China University of Geosciences, Beijing 100083, China


An oolite in the Furongian (Late Cambrian) Chaomidian Formation in Shandong Province, China, which was deposited on the North China Platform in an epeiric sea, contains several limestone breccia lenses of various dimensions (centimetres to decimetres thick and decimetres to more than 10 metres in length) in an E-trending section. The oolite, which is approximately 40 cm thick, was originally thicker, as indicated by a planar truncation surface that formed by wave abrasion. The breccia lenses in this oolite are generally mound-shaped with a flat base and a convex top. The western margin of the lenses is commonly rounded whereas the eastern margin commonly has a tail (consisting of a rapidly eastwards thinning breccia horizon that gradually ends in a horizon of isolated clasts). Some of the breccia lenses are underlain by a shear zone.

The formation of the breccia lenses cannot be easily explained by normal depositional or deformational processes. It is concluded that the lenses represent fragments of a partly consolidated layer, consisting of both rounded and angular platy clasts, which slid down over a very gently inclined sedimentary surface which acted – possibly together with a water film – as a lubricant layer. During transport, the layer broke up into several discrete bodies that formed small ‘highs’ at the sedimentary surface of the shallow epeiric sea. Subsequently, waves partially eroded the lenses, mostly at their margins, producing their mound-shaped form.

Sliding of blocks is known from a wide variety of environments in the sedimentary record; however, this is the first description of the sliding of blocks in an epeiric sea. This indicates that such a low-relief submarine carbonate setting is, like its siliciclastic counterparts, susceptible to this process.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Alsop, G.I. & Marco, S., 2011. Soft-sediment deformation within seismogenic slumps of the Dead Sea Basin. Journal of Structural Geology 33, 433–457.

  • Bouchette, F., Seguret, M. & Moussine-Pouchkine, A., 2001. Coarse carbonate breccias as a result of water-wave cyclic loading (uppermost Jurassic–South-East Basin, France). Sedimentology 48, 767–789.

  • Chen, J., Chough, S.K., Chun, S.S. & Han, Z., 2009a. Limestone pseudoconglomerates in the Late Cambrian Gushan and Chaomidian Formations (Shandong Province, China): soft-sediment deformation induced by storm-wave loading. Sedimentology 56, 1174–1195.

  • Chen, J., Van Loon, A.J., Han, Z. & Chough, S.K., 2009b. Funnel-shaped, breccia-filled clastic dykes in the Late Cambrian Chaomidian Formation (Shandong Province, China). Sedimentary Geology 221, 1–6.

  • Chen, J., Han, Z., Zhang, X, Fan, A. & Yang, R., 2010. Early diagenetic deformation structures of the Furongian ribbon rocks in Shandong Province of China – a new perspective of the genesis of limestone conglomerates. Science China, Earth Sciences 53, 241–252.

  • Chen, J., Chough, S.K., Han, Z. & Lee, J.H., 2011. An extensive erosion surface of a strongly deformed limestone bed in the Gushan and Chaomidian Formations (late Middle Cambrian to Furongian), Shandong Province, China: sequence-stratigraphic implications. Sedimentary Geology 233, 129–149.

  • Chen, J., Chough, S.K., Lee, J.H. & Han, Z., 2012. Sequence-stratigraphic comparison of the upper Cambrian Series 3 to Furongian succession between the Shandong region, China and the Taebaek area, Korea: high variability of bounding surfaces in an epeiric platform. Geosciences Journal 16, 357–379.

  • Chough, S.K., Kwon, Y.K., Choi, D.K. & Lee, D.J., 2001. Autoconglomeration of limestone. Geosciences Journal 5, 159–164.

  • Chough, S.K., Lee, H.S., Woo, J., Chen, J., Choi, D.K., Lee, S.-B., Kang, I., Park, T.-Y. & Han, Z., 2010. Cambrian stratigraphy of the North China Platform: revisiting principal sections in Shandong Province, China. Geosciences Journal 14, 235–268.

  • Field, M. E., Gardner, V., Jennings, A.E. & Edwards, B.D., 1982. Earthquake-induced sediment failures on a 0.25° slope, Klamath river delta, California. Geology 10, 542–546.

  • García-Tortosa, F.J., Pedro Alfaro, P., Gibert L. & Scott, G., 2011. Seismically induced slump on an extremely gentle slope (<1°) of the Pleistocene Tecopa paleolake (California). Geology 39, 1055–1058.

  • Gibert, L., Sanz De Galdeano, C., Alfaro, P., Scott, G. & Lopez Garrido, A.C., 2005. Seismic induced slump in Early Pleistocene deltaic deposits of the Baza Basin (SE Spain). Sedimentary Geology 179, 279–294.

  • Hiscott, R.N., 1979. Clastic sills and dikes associated with deep-water sandstones, Tourelle Formation, Ordovician, Quebec. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 49, 1–10.

  • Kiessling, W., 2003. Reefs [In:] G.V. Middleton (Ed.): Encyclopedia of sediments and sedimentary rocks. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 557–560.

  • Kullberg, J.C., Oloriz, F., Marques, B., Caetano, P.S. & Rocha, R.B., 2001. Flat-pebble conglomerates: a local marker for Early Jurassic seismicity related to syn-rift tectonics in the Sesimbra area (Lusitanian Basin, Portugal). Sedimentary Geology 139, 49–70.

  • Kwon, Y.K., Chough, S.K., Choi, D.K. & Lee, D.J., 2002. Origin of limestone conglomerates in the Choson Supergroup (Cambro-Ordovician), mid-east Korea. Sedimentary Geology 146, 265–283.

  • Martinius, A.W. & Van den Berg, J.H., 2011. Atlas of sedimentary structures in estuarine and tidally-influenced river deposits of the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt system – their application to the interpretation of analogous outcrop and subsurface depositional systems. EAGE Publications, Houten, 298 pp.

  • Martinsen, O.J., 2003. Slide and slump structures. [In:] G.V. Middleton (Ed.): Encyclopedia of sediments and sedimentary rocks. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 666–668.

  • Mei, M.X. & Ma, Y.S., 2001. Study on sequence Stratigraphy and sea-level changes of Late Cambrian in northern part of North China – discussion on the correlation of sea-level change with that of North America. Journal of Stratigraphy 25, 201–206. [in Chinese, with English abstract]

  • Mei, S.L., Mei, M.X. & Chen, J.Q., 1996. New results from the study on the outcrop sequence Stratigraphy of Middle and Upper Cambrian, North China. Journal of Stratigraphy 20, 146–152. [in Chinese, with English abstract]

  • Meng, X., Ge, M. & Tucker, M.E., 1997. Sequence stratigraphy, sea-level changes and depositional systems in the Cambro-Ordovician of the North China carbonate platform. Sedimentary Geology 114, 189–222.

  • Meng, X.H., Qiao, X.F. & Ge, M., 1986. Study on ancient shallow sea carbonate storm deposits (tempestite) in North China and Dingjiatan – model of facies sequences. Acta Sedimentologica Sinica 5, 1–18. [in Chinese, with English abstract]

  • Morawski, W., 2009. Neotectonics induced by ice-sheet advances in NE Poland. Geologos 15, 199–217.

  • Moretti, M. & Sabato, L., 2007. Recognition of trigger mechanisms for soft-sediment deformation in the Pleistocene lacustrine deposits of the Sant‘Arcangelo Basin (Southern Italy): seismic shock vs. overloading. Sedimentary Geology 196, 31–45.

  • Owen, G., 1996. Experimental soft-sediment deformation: structures formed by the liquefaction of unconsolidated sands and some ancient examples. Sedimentology 43, 279–293.

  • Parize, O. & Fries, G., 2003. The Vocontian clastic dykes and sills; a geometric model. [In:] P. van Resenbergen, A.J. Hillis & C.K. Morley (Eds): Subsurface sediment mobilization. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 216, 51–72.

  • Pedley, H.M., Cugno, G. & Grasso, M., 1992. Gravity slide and resedimentation processes in a Miocene carbonate ramp, Hyblean Platcau, southeastern Sicily. Sedimentary Geology 79, 189–202.

  • Shi, X.Y., Chen, J.Q. & MEI, S.L., 1997. Cambrian sequence stratigraphic framework of the North China Platform. Earth Science Frontiers 4, 161–172. [in Chinese, with English abstract]

  • Spalluto, L., Moretti, M., Festa, V. & Tropeano, M., 2007. Seismically-induced slumps in Lower-Maastrichtian peritidal carbonates of the Apulian Platform (southern Italy). Sedimentary Geology 196, 81–98.

  • Spence, G.H. & Tucker, M.E., 1997. Genesis of limestone megabreccias and their significance in carbonate sequence stratigraphic models: a review. Sedimentary Geology 112, 163–193.

  • Spengler, A.E. & Read, J.F., 2010. Sequence development on a sediment-starved, low accommodation epeiric carbonate ramp: Silurian Wabash Platform, USA mid-continent during icehouse to greenhouse transition. Sedimentary Geology 224, 84–115.

  • Van Loon, A.J., 1983. The stress system in mud flows during deposition, as revealed by the fabric of some Carboniferous pebbly mudstones in Spain. [In:] M.W. van den Berg & R. Felix, R. (Eds): Special issue in honour of J.D. de Jong. Geologie en Mijnbouw 62, 493–498.

  • Van Loon, A.J., 2009. Soft-sediment deformation structures in siliciclastic sediments: an overview. Geologos 15, 3–55.

  • Van Loon, A.J. & Wiggers, A.J., 1976. Primary and secondary synsedimentary structures in the lagoonal Almere Member (Groningen Formation, Holocene, The Netherlands). Sedimentary Geology 16, 89–97.

  • Van Loon, A.J., Han, Z. & Han, Y. (in press). Origin of the vertically orientated clasts in brecciated shallow-marine limestones of the Chaomidian Formation (Furongian, Shandong Province, China). Sedimentology (in press).

  • Van Loon, A.J., Mazumder, R. & De, S., 2012. Unravelling the depositional environment of the Archaean Rajkharsawan conglomerate (Jharkhand, eastern India). Netherlands Journal of Geosciences / Geologie en Mijnbouw 91, 103–109.

  • Wang, Y.H., Zhang, X.L. & Yang, C.Y., 1989. Carbonate petrology of the Early Palaeozoic in the North China Platform. Earthquake Publishing House, Beijing, 50 pp. [in Chinese]

  • Whitmore, J.H. & Strom, R., 2003. Sand injectites at the base of the Coconino Sandstone, Grand Canyon, Arizona (USA). Sedimentary Geology 230, 46–59.


Journal + Issues