Pliocene aridity and Neogene landscape evolution recorded by a fluvial sediment system (Campaspe Formation) in northeast Queensland

Henderson, R.A., and Nind, M.A.P. (2014) Pliocene aridity and Neogene landscape evolution recorded by a fluvial sediment system (Campaspe Formation) in northeast Queensland. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, 61 (8). pp. 1041-1059.

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Abstract

Campaspe Formation, a surficial, fluviatile, sand-dominated unit, is extensively developed in the Charters Towers region of north Queensland where it covers an area of 11 000 km2, overlying Paleozoic basement and erosional remnants of Paleogene Southern Cross Formation. In the northern part of its distribution, it is interlayered with, and overlain by, flows of Nulla Basalt. It is dated as mid-Pliocene, based on the 3.48 Ma age of the Myrrilumbing Flow interlayered with its upper part, an antiquity consistent with thin ferricrete locally developed at its surface. The formation defines the Campaspe Surface at an elevation of 200–440 m in the present landscape, falling gently from upland to the west towards the current channel of the Burdekin River. This surface is a relict alluvial plain little incised by easterly flowing tributaries of the Burdekin River and has survived, essentially intact, from the early Pliocene. Geometry of the formation is established from some 2000 mineral exploration drill holes and seismic profiling. It has an average thickness of some 60 m, reaching a maximum of over 200 m. It blankets a pre-existing, low relief landscape in which a basement ridge divides it into two sub-basins that mirror the present drainage. The formation consists of poorly sorted sandstone with minor conglomerate and siltstone, and contains paleosol horizons with associated calcrete. Matrix supported sandstone in the succession, indicates deposition in part from hyperconcentrated flows. Sandstones generally show poorly defined planar layering as typical of ephemeral overbank and terminal splay sediment bodies but beds with cross-lamination, indicating fluvial channel bed forms, are also present. They are characterised by pore-filling silt and mud, largely emplaced by post-depositional infiltration, such that the unit produces essentially no groundwater. Facies attributes are consistent with fluvial deposition in ephemeral, dry climate, distributary system, with inefficient cross-drainage discharge that induced aggradation, resulting in a substantial sediment body perched in the landscape. Framework grain compositions show the formation to be mineralogically mature, representing erosional debris derived from intense weathering in an earlier climatic regime recorded, at least in part, by duricrust developed in the fluviatile–lacustrine Southern Cross Formation of Paleogene age. Such duricrust intervals are now upstanding in the landscape, representing erosional remnants from inverted relief developed in a mid-Cenozoic, pluvial, landscape cycle. Paleoclimatic signature of the Campaspe Formation extends the record of Pliocene aridity, widely recognised elsewhere in Australia, to northeast Queensland. In large part the landscape of the Charters Towers district is relict from the early Pliocene and is in the process of readjusting to more pluvial climatic regimes. By implication, Pliocene aridity has, on a small scale, exerted a strong influence on the present physiography of Australian landscapes.

Item ID: 37050
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1440-0952
Keywords: Pliocene, aridity, clay infiltration, paleoclimate, fluvial distributary floodplain, ephemeral fluviatile facies, northeast Australia, Campaspe Formation, landscape aggradation, topographic inversion
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2015 08:06
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040310 Sedimentology @ 40%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040301 Basin Analysis @ 30%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040605 Palaeoclimatology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 80%
84 MINERAL RESOURCES (excl. Energy Resources) > 8401 Mineral Exploration > 840199 Mineral Exploration not elsewhere classified @ 20%
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