Benthic carbonate factories of the Phanerozoic
Marine carbonate precipitation occurs in three basic modes: abiotic (or quasi-abiotic), biotically induced, and biotically controlled. On a geologic scale, these precipitation modes combine to form three carbonate production systems, or "factories" in the benthic environment: (1) tropical shallow-water factory, dominated by biotically controlled (mainly photo-autotrophic) and abiotic precipitates; (2) cool-water factory, dominated by biotically controlled (mainly heterotrophic) precipitates; and (3) mud-mound factory, dominated by biotically induced (mainly microbial) and abiotic precipitates. Sediment accumulations of the factories differ in composition, geometry, and facies patterns, and some of these differences appear prominently in seismic data, thus facilitating subsurface prediction. The characteristic accumulation of the tropical factory is the flat-topped, often reef-rimmed platform. In cool-water systems, reefs in high-energy settings are scarce and hydrodynamic influence dominates, producing seaward-sloping shelves and deep-water sediment drifts often armored by skeletal framework. The typical accumulation of the mud-mound factory is groups of mounds in deeper water. Where the mud-mound factory expands into shallow water, it forms rimmed platforms similar to the tropical factory. The tropical factory is most productive; the mud-mound factory reaches 80–90%, and the cool-water factory 20–30% of the tropical growth rate. The three factories represent end members connected by transitions in space. Transitions in time are linked to biotic evolution.