Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) phosphorites in Jordan: implications for the formation of a south Tethyan phosphorite giant
A record of sedimentary, authigenic, and biological processes are preserved within the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Alhisa Phosphorite Formation (AP) in central and northern Jordan. The AP formed near the eastern extremity of the south Tethyan Phosphorite Province (STPP), a carbonate-dominated Upper Cretaceous to Eocene "phosphorite giant" that extends from Colombia, North Africa to the Middle East. Multidisciplinary research of the AP and associated cherts, chalks, and oyster buildups indicate that phosphatic strata formed on a highly productive, storm-dominated, east-west trending epeiric platform along the south Tethyan margin. The onset of phosphogenesis and the accumulation of economic phosphorite coincided with a rise in relative sea level that onlapped peritidal carbonates of the Ajlun Group. Pristine phosphates are associated with well-developed micrite concretionary horizons and contain abundant non-keeled spiral planktic foraminifera and a low diversity benthic assemblage of Buliminacean foraminifera, suggesting that pristine phosphates are a condensed facies and phosphogenesis was stimulated by the effects of a highly productive surface ocean and the suboxic diagenesis of sedimentary organic matter. The bulk sediment composition and absence of Fe-bearing authigenic phases such as glauconite, pyrite (including pyrite molds), siderite, and goethite within pristine phosphates suggests that deposition and authigenesis occurred under conditions of detrital starvation and that "iron-pumping" played a minimal role in phosphogenesis. Authigenic precipitation of phosphate occurred in a broad array of sedimentary environments—herein termed a "phosphorite nursery"—that spanned the entire platform. This is a non-uniformitarian phenomenon reflecting precipitation of sedimentary apatite across a wide depositional spectrum in a variety of depositional settings, wherever the conditions were suitable for phosphogenesis. Sedimentologic data indicate that pristine phosphates were concentrated into phosphatic grainstones through storm wave winnowing, and storm-generated, shelf-parallel geostrophic currents. Economic phosphorites formed through the amalgamation of storm-induced event beds. Stratigraphic packaging of phosphatic strata indicates that temporal variations in storm frequency were a prerequisite for the formation of economic phosphorite. Syndepositional phosphogenesis, reworking, and amalgamation to form phosphorites contrasts sharply with the principles of "Baturin Cycling". A transgressive systems tract coupled with high surface productivity created detritally starved settings favourable for phosphogenesis; storm reworking of pristine phosphate facies produced granular phosphorite; and amalgamation of storm-generated granular event beds formed economic phosphorite in a single systems tract.