Drowning of a Lower Jurassic carbonate platform: Jbel Bou Dahar, High Atlas, Morocco

Dierk P.G. Blomeier*, John J.G. Reijmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The high-plateau of the Jbel Bou Dahar, situated in the Central and Eastern High Atlas of Morocco, represents a Lower Jurassic carbonate platform that drowned at the beginning of the Toarcian. Three phases of platform evolution can be distinguished: During the pre-drowning phase (upper Sinemurian - upper Pliensbachian) the platform interior facies reflects a restricted-marine lagoonal environment, protected by scattered buildups and cemented debris at the platform margin. Upper and mid-slope are dominated by coarse-grained, poorly sorted limestones, deposited through debris flows during sea-level lowstands. Sea-level highstand deposits occur at the toe of slope and are formed by an alternation of fine-grained litho- and bioclastic pack- to grainstones (turbidites), marls and mud- to wackestones (hemipelagic oozes). A condensed section, reflecting an abrupt and fundamental environmental change along the entire platform, characterises the drowning phase (upper Pliensbachian - lower Toarcian). Within the platform interior densely packed biosparites represent the switch to high-energy environments, causing erosion of the former pre-drowning lagoonal sediments. These erosional products were redeposited on the platform slope, leading to the formation of coarse-grained non-skeletal sparites and micrites. Both platform interior and slope successions show a series of cyclic variations in sediment composition that could have been triggered by small-scale sea-level fluctuations. In contrast to the abrupt facies change at the pre-drowning - drowning boundary, the transition to the post-drowning phase (lower Toarcian - Aalenian) is gradual. During this phase, biopelmicrites and pure micrites were deposited in all platform sections, followed by the deposition of calcisiltites. The facies point to quiet-water conditions below storm-wave base and display a uniform deep-marine sedimentation. This analysis shows that the drowning of the Jbel Bou Dahar carbonate platform was caused by abrupt and fundamental changes in the shallow-water realm. After exposure of the platform, these changes prevented the carbonate factory from re-establishing itself and made it impossible for the platform to keep up with the subsequent rise in sea level. These local changes were probably triggered by high-frequency sea-level variations in combination with regional or even worldwide changes in ocean circulation patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-110
Number of pages30
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1999


  • Carbonate sedimentology
  • Depositional geometries
  • Liassic
  • Microfacies analysis
  • Morocco (High Atlas)
  • Platform drowning


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