Global geoheritage significance of Ordovician stratigraphy and sedimentology in the Cliefden Caves area, central western New South Wales


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Australian Journal of Earth Sciences

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Globally significant geoheritage features of the Cliefden Caves area, in the Belubula River Valley between Orange and Cowra in central western New South Wales, comprise a richly fossiliferous shallow-water limestone succession of Late Ordovician age (the Cliefden Caves Limestone Subgroup) overlain by deep-water laminites and allochthonous limestones of the Upper Ordovician Malongulli Formation. Key features of the Ordovician geology of the Cliefden Caves area that have been identified using the Geoheritage Toolkit as being of international significance are the abundance of unique and exceptionally diverse fossils in the Fossil Hill Limestone (forming the lower part of the Cliefden Caves Limestone Subgroup), which supplement detailed interpretation of carbonate-dominated deposition within an Ordovician volcanic island setting. The fossiliferous limestones preserve biostromes and local small bioherms of stromatoporoids and corals, and recurrent in situ and disarticulated/imbricated Eodinobolus shell beds formed in shallow, quiet-water, dominantly muddy carbonate sediments that passed up-sequence to clay-free carbonate environments. These mud-dominated carbonate sediments are interspersed with higher-energy conditions, represented by skeletal, lithoclastic and calcrete-ooid grainstones overlying disconformities, leading to the identification of subaerial disconformities and associated diagenesis in the Fossil Hill Limestone. The Fossil Hill Limestone is succeeded by massive limestones in the middle part of the Cliefden Caves Limestone Subgroup and then, in turn by the Vandon Limestone and the deeper-water graptolitic laminites of the Malongulli Formation—this completes a succession that is rarely preserved in the geological record, further enhancing the geoheritage significance of the Cliefden Caves area.


Cliefden Caves, Ordovician, Geoheritage, Geoheritage significance, Fossils, Limestone, Subaerial disconformities

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