Dr. SaMeH S. Ahmed

Civil and Environmental Engineering Department

Secondary sediment


Secondary sedimentary structures


    


Secondary sedimentary structures are structures in sedimentary rocks which formed after deposition. Such structures form by chemical, physical and biological processes inside the sediment. They can be indicators for circumstances after deposition. Some can be used as way up criteria.

Organic presence in a sediment can leave more traces than just fossils. Preserved tracks and burrows are examples of trace fossils (also called ichnofossils).[33]Some trace fossils such as paw prints of dinosaurs or early humans can capture human imagination, but such traces are relatively rare. Most trace fossils are burrows of molluscs or arthropods. This burrowing is called bioturbation by sedimentologists. It can be a valuable indicator of the biological and ecological environment after the sediment was deposited. On the other hand, the burrowing activity of organisms can destroy other (primary) structures in the sediment, making a reconstruction more difficult.

Chert concretions in chalkMiddle Lefkara Formation (upper Paleocene to middleEocene), Cyprus.

Secondary structures can also have been formed by diagenesis or the formation of a soil (pedogenesis) when a sediment is exposed above the water level. An example of a diagenetic structure common in carbonate rocks is a stylolite.[34] Stylolites are irregular planes were material was dissolved into the pore fluids in the rock. The result of precipitation of a certain chemical species can be colouring and staining of the rock, or the formation of concretions. Concretions are roughly concentric bodies with a different composition from the host rock. Their formation can be the result of localized precipitation due to small differences in composition or porosity of the host rock, such as around fossils, inside burrows or around plant roots.[35] In carbonate rocks such as limestone or chalkchert orflint concretions are common, while terrestrial sandstones can have iron concretions. Calcite concretions in clay are called septarian concretions.

After deposition, physical processes can deform the sediment, forming a third class of secondary structures. Density contrasts between different sedimentary layers, such as between sand and clay, can result in flame structures or load casts, formed by inverted diapirism.[36] The diapirism causes the denser upper layer to sink into the other layer. Sometimes, density contrast can result or grow when one of the lithologies dehydrates. Clay can be easily compressed as a result of dehydration, while sand retains the same volume and becomes relatively less dense. On the other hand, when the pore fluid pressure in a sand layer surpasses a critical point the sand can flow through overlying clay layers, forming discordant bodies of sedimentary rock called sedimentary dykes (the same process can form mud volcanoes on the surface).

A sedimentary dyke can also be formed in a cold climate where the soil is permanently frozen during a large part of the year. Frost weathering can form cracks in the soil that fill with rubble from above. Such structures can be used as climate indicators as well as way up structures.[37]

Density contrasts can also cause small-scale faulting, even while sedimentation goes on (syn-sedimentary faulting).[38] Such faulting can also occur when large masses of non-lithified sediment are deposited on a slope, such as at the front side of a delta or the continental slope. Instabilities in such sediments can result in slumping. The resulting structures in the rock are syn-sedimentary folds and faults, which can be difficult to distinguish from folds and faults formed by tectonic forces in lithified rocks.


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