Sedimentological criteria to differentiate submarine channel levee subenvironments: Exhumed examples from the Rosario Fm. (Upper Cretaceous) of Baja California, Mexico, and the Fort Brown Fm. (Permian), Karoo Basin, S. Africa
Two scales of levee confinement are commonly recognised from submarine channel-levee systems on the seafloor and in the subsurface. Large-scale external levees bound the entire system whilst smaller-scale internal levees bound individual thalweg channels within the channel-belt. Although thin beds are commonly identified in core and well logs, their origin, and consequently their stratigraphic significance is currently poorly understood. This knowledge gap stems, in part, from the lack of unambiguously identified outcrop analogues of channel-levees, and in particular the lack of identifiable internal and external levees. Here we report from two exhumed channel-levee systems where both scales of confinement can be recognised: the Rosario Fm. of Baja California, and the Fort Brown Fm. of South Africa. A suite of characteristic sedimentary features are recognised from internal and external levees respectively: internal levees are characterised by structures indicative of complexity in the waxing-waning style of overspill, interactions with topography and flow magnitude variability; in contrast, external levees are characterised by structures indicative of simple surge-like waning flows, relatively uniform flow directions, laterally extensive beds, and a lack of erosive events. Using these observations, together with published literature, we propose a simple nomenclatural scheme for levee sub-environments, and criteria to differentiate between levee sub-environments in core or outcrop.