Palynology of the Upper Cretaceous (Turonian) Ferron Sandstone Member, Utah, USA: Identification of marine flooding surfaces and Milankovitch cycles in subtropical, ever-wet, paralic to non-marine palaeoenvironments

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© 2015 AASP - The Palynological Society. The Upper Cretaceous Ferron Sandstone Member of the Mancos Shale Formation in Utah includes coal and gas deposits and is an important outcrop analogue to study reservoir characterisation of fluvial-deltaic petroleum systems. Numerous sedimentological and sequence stratigraphic studies of the Notom fluvial-deltaic wedge have been conducted recently; however, palynological analyses had not previously been undertaken. Here, we present palynological data from 128 samples collected in the Notom wedge of the Ferron Sandstone Member outcropping in south-central Utah. The purpose of this study is to use palynological analysis to refine the broader depositional environments, evaluate the climatic setting, and to build a biostratigraphic palynological framework. The dominance of terrestrial palynomorphs, especially the high yield of moisture-loving cryptogam spores, indicates a primarily ever-wet depositional environment characteristic of hydromorphic floodplain palaeosols formed in subtropical to tropical climates. Although dinoflagellates are rare, four intervals with occurrences of marine cysts indicate periods of increased marine/tidal influence associated with previously identified flooding surfaces within Milankovitch-scale parasequences of the largely non-marine stratal succession. These flooding surfaces confirm correlations from regional high-resolution sequence stratigraphic studies and allow correlative marine parasequences and systems tracts to be extended within floodplain-dominated stratal successions. The presence of Nyssapollenites albertensis pollen places the interval studied within the Nyssapollenites albertensis Interval Zone (Nichols 1994), constraining the age of the Ferron Sandstone Member to the latter part of the Cenomanian and the early Coniacian. This largely agrees with the bentonite- and ammonite-derived Turonian age proposed in previous studies.

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