Forty-two bench samples of the Sewickley coal bed were collected from seven localities in the northern Appalachian Basin and analyzed palynologically, petrographically, and geochemically. The Sewickley coal bed occurs in the middle of the Pittsburgh Formation (Monongahela Group) and is of Late Pennsylvanian age. Palynologically, it is dominated by spores of tree ferns. Tree fern spore taxa in the Sewickley include Punctatisporites minutus, Punctatosporites minutus, Laevigatosporites minimus, Spinosporites exiguus, Apiculatasporites saetiger, and Thymospora spp. In fact, Punctatisporites minutus was so abundant that it had to be removed from the standard counts and recorded separately (average 73.2%). Even when Punctatisporites minutus is removed from the counts, tree fern spores still dominate a majority of the assemblages, averaging 64.4%. Among the tree fern spores identified in the Sewickley coal, Thymospora exhibits temporal and spatial abundance variation. Thymospora usually increases in abundance from the base to the top of the bed. Thymospora is also more abundant in columns that are thick (>100 cm) and low in ash yield (< 12.0%, dry basis). Calamite spores (e.g. Calamospora spp., Laevigatosporites minor, and L. vulgaris) are the next most abundant plant group represented in the Sewickley coal, averaging 20%. Contributions from all other plant groups are minor in comparison. Petrographically, the Sewickley coal contains high percentages of vitrinite (average 82.3%, mineral matter-free (mmf)), with structured forms being more common than unstructured forms. In contrast, liptinite and inertinite macerals both occur in low percentages (average 7.7% and 10.0%, respectively). Geochemically, the Sewickley coal has a moderate ash yield (average 12.4%) and high total sulfur content (average 3.4%). Four localities contained a high ash or carbonaceous shale bench. These benches, which may be coeval, are strongly dominated by tree fern spores. Unlike the lower ash benches, they contain low percentages of vitrinite, which mainly occurs as unstructured vitrinite, and higher liptinite and inertinite contents. The accumulated data suggest that the Sewickley paleomire was probably a rheotrophic, planar mire that had a consistent water cover. This is supported by the high vitrinite contents, moderate ash yields, and high total sulfur contents. The high ash and carbonaceous shale benches probably represent either periods of dryness and substrate exposure, or flooding of the mire surface, the duration of which is unknown. ?? 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Palynology, petrography and geochemistry of the Sewickley coal bed (Monongahela Group, Late Pennsylvanian), Northern Appalachian Basin, USA