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Sedimentological analyses of middle Paleozoic epeiric sea successions in North America suggest a hierarchy of discontinuity surfaces and condensed beds of increasing complexity. Simple firmgrounds and hardgrounds, which are comparatively ephemeral features, form the base of the hierarchy. Composite hardgrounds, reworked concretions, authigenic mineral crusts and monomictic intraformational conglomerates indicate more complex histories. Polymictic intraformational conglomerates, ironstones and phosphorites form the most complex discontinuity surfaces and condensed beds. Complexity of discontinuities is closely linked to depositional environments duration of sediment starvation and degree of reworking which in turn show a relationship to stratigraphic cyclicity. A model of cratonic sequence stratigraphy is generated by combining data on the complexity and lateral distribution of discontinuities in the context of facies successions. Lowstand, early transgressive and late transgressive systems tracts are representative of sea-level rise. Early and late transgressive systems tracts are separated by the maximum starvation surface (typically a polymictic intraformational conglomerate or condensed phosphorite), deposited during the peak rate of sea-level rise. Conversely the maximum flooding surface, representing the highest stand of sea level, is marked by little to no break in sedimentation. The highstand and falling stage systems tracts are deposited during relative sea-level fall. They are separated by the forced-regression surface, a thin discontinuity surface or condensed bed developed during the most rapid rate of sea-level fall. The lowest stand of sea level is marked by the sequence boundary. In subaerially exposed areas it is occasionally modified as a rockground or composite hardground.
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Hierarchy of sedimentary discontinuity surfaces and condensed beds from the middle Paleozoic of eastern North America: Implications for cratonic sequence stratigraphy