Reconsidering Carboniferous-Permian continental paleoenvironments in eastern equatorial Pangea: facies and sequence stratigraphy investigations in the Autun Basin (France)
The late Carboniferous-early Permian represents a key period in the Phanerozoic history, given the major global geodynamic and climate modifications. The aim of this work is to better understand the context and characteristics of the sedimentation recorded in the continental environments of eastern equatorial Pangea at this time, through the example of the Autun Basin (northeastern Massif Central, France). The Autun Basin contains the historical stratotype of the Autunian continental stage, and its stratigraphy was recently improved by accurate numerical ages. This basin formed in an extensional tectonic context during the latest stages of the Variscan orogeny, and it is essential to study its paleoenvironmental evolution to provide new insights into the sedimentary evolution of contemporaneous surrounding basins. Using field and subsurface data, we propose a refined sedimentological model for the Autun Basin, relying on updated facies interpretations, organic matter content fluctuations, and sequence stratigraphy concepts and correlations. The continental environments of the lower sedimentary succession of the Autun Basin, previously considered to be fluvial and lacustrine, are herein re-interpreted as mainly lacustrine, comprising fine-grained organic matter-rich deposits, and supplied by coarser-grained deltaic siliciclastic sediments, without preservation of strict fluvial sedimentation. The determination of the sequence stratigraphy cycles, strengthened by the quantification of the organic matter content, and reflected by the temporal succession of progradational and retrogradational trends, is used to determine new correlations between several sections, as well as to reconstruct the paleoenvironment evolution at the Carboniferous-Permian transition. This study provides evidence that the sedimentation area of the Autun Basin at the time of its filling was much larger than the preserved basin area, and suggests connections with contemporaneous neighboring French basins, pointing to a large sedimentary system in the northeastern Massif Central area rather than narrow and isolated basins.