Aeolian Delivery of Organic Matter to a Middle Permian Deepwater Ramp
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Windblown dust is a significant source of sediment and organic matter for many basins, but its influence on ancient basins can be difficult to detect and quantify. We quantified the biomarker content, including n-alkanes, hopanes, and steranes of the Brushy Canyon Formation sandstones and siltstones to evaluate the significance of windblown dust in delivery of sediment and terrestrial organic matter to the Middle Permian Delaware Basin. Ramp siltstones of the basin have been interpreted as representing deposits of unconfined low-density turbidity currents or "aeolo-marine" sediments. We analyzed the organic contents of five samples of channel-confined turbiditic sandstones and siltstones and five samples of ramp siltstones outcropping in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, West Texas, to estimate the relative proportions of terrestrial and marine organic matter in the two types of host rocks. The total organic carbon content of all samples varied from 0.07 percent - 2.04 percent. The abundance of high molecular weight n-alkanes (n-C27 and greater) suggests that terrestrial organic matter was present in nearly all samples. Terrestrial organic matter input to the basin was characterized using a crossplot of pristane/n-C17 versus phytane/n-C18. Ramp siltstones showed ~10-fold greater variation in terrestrial content than did turbiditic sandstones and siltstones. This observation is more consistent with the aeolo-marine interpretation of ramp siltstones, and suggests that terrestrial organic matter was delivered to the Delaware Basin by wind transport during deposition of the Brushy Canyon Formation.
Artan, Sinem (2011). Aeolian Delivery of Organic Matter to a Middle Permian Deepwater Ramp. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from