Geologic and paleoecologic studies of the Nebraska Sand Hills

Professional Paper 1120-A-C
By: , and 



PART A: The Nebraska Sand Hills are an inactive, late Quaternary, most probably Holocene, dune field (covering 57,000 km 2 ) that have been eroded along streams and in blowouts, resulting in excellent lateral and vertical exposures of the stratification of dune and interdune sediments. This paper presents new data on the geometry, primary sedimentary structures, modification of sedimentary structures, direction of sand movement, and petrography of these eolian deposits. Eolian deposits of the Sand Hills occur as relatively thin (9-24 m) 'blanket' sands, composed of a complex of dune and discontinuous, diachronous interdune deposits unconformably overlying fluviolacustrine sediments. The internal stratification of large dunes in the Sand Hills (as high as 100 m), is similar to the internal stratification of smaller dunes of the same type in the Sand Hills, differing only in scale. Studies of laminae orientation in the Sand Hills indicate that transverse, barchan, and blowout dunes can be differentiated in rocks of eolian origin using both the mean dip angle of laminae and the mean angular deviation of dip direction. A variety of secondary structures modify or replace primary eolian stratification in the Sand Hills, the more common of which are dissipation structures and bioturbation. Dissipation structures in the Sand Hills may develop when infiltrating water deposits clay adjacent to less permeable layers in the sand, or along the upper margins of frozen layers that form in the sands during winter. Cross-bed measurements from dunes of the Nebraska Sand Hills necessitate a new interpretation of the past sand transport directions. The data from these measurements indicate a general northwest-to-southeast drift of sand, with a more southerly drift in the southeast part of the Sand Hills. A large area of small dunes < 100 m high) described by Smith (1965) as linear or seif in the central part of the Sand Hills was interpreted by him on the basis of morphology only. We interpret these as transverse-ridge dunes that were generally moving to the south. Further, our measurements indicate that dunes in the western part of the Sand Hills did not develop in response to present-day effective wind regimes. The presence of 'transverse' and en echelon barchan dunes in the Sand Hills corresponds to a developmental sequence of barchan to linear dunes proposed by Tsoar (1978). Dune and interdune deposits of the Sand Hills are subfeldsarenites to feldsarenites. Sand grains are commonly coated with montmorillonitic clay, which may be the local source of the clay concentrated in the dissipation structures. Textures of sand samples taken from adjacent layers within a dune were as dissimilar as textures of samples taken from widely separated dunes. This common occurrence indicates that textural data must be used carefully and in combination with other data to recognize ancient rocks of eolian origin. Organic material derived from a variety of flora and fauna that inhabit the interdunes (chapters B and C) generated both oil and gas upon heating. Thus, interdune sediments may be an indigenous hydrocarbon source if buried in eolianites. The twofold stratigraphy of loess and correlative dune deposits in the Sand Hills proposed by Reed and Dreeszen (1965) could not be confirmed by the present study. Rather, available data indicate that the dunes represent a single formation as suggested by Lugn (1935). PART B: Three assemblages of nonmarine Mollusca from paleointerdune deposits in the Nebraska Sand Hills inhabited shallow, quiet, vegetated, subpermanent or temporary, freshwater interdune ponds and adjacent terrestrial habitats. Analysis of factors affecting the taxonomic composition, diversity, and abundance of species in living assemblages of mollusks support this interpretation. The mollusks have long biostratigraphic ranges and broad biogeographic distributions. They fail to establish precise age relations of the faunas othe
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geologic and paleoecologic studies of the Nebraska Sand Hills
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1120
Chapter A-C
DOI 10.3133/pp1120AC
Edition -
Year Published 1980
Language ENGLISH
Publisher U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
Description 38 p.
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