Exploring computed tomography in ichnological analysis of cores from modern marine sediments.


Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK. [Email]


Ichnological analysis is considered a very useful tool in several disciplines of Earth Sciences, including palaeoenvironmental studies and hydrocarbon exploration. Sediment cores provide excellent records, despite difficulties encountered during study runs due to specific core features. Previous studies using 2D images have proven the benefits of high-resolution image treatment in improving the visibility of ichnological features, but with limitations. 3D computed tomography (CT) techniques were applied to palaeoichnological studies in lithified cores and other disciplines of palaeontology to solve these limitations, but not used for ichnological studies in unconsolidated sediments due to the low density contrast between host sediment and trace fossils. In this study, a CT processing technique, previously tested in coral research, is applied to facilitate the characterisation of the ichnological signature of cores from modern marine soft sediments. This technique allows for the first time the isolation of burrows within these kinds of sediments and the differentiation of intervals based on burrow orientation. Data obtained from the technique are complemented with the ichnological information from conventional core description, thus providing a more complete characterisation of the trace fossil assemblage with additional ichnological properties such as burrow orientation and branching. This will improve palaeoenvironmental interpretations related to changes in energy or oxygenation, and the analysis of reservoir quality given the impact of burrows on porosity and permeability. Therefore, adopting CT to complement visual core description in the ichnological analysis of soft modern marine cores is a very informative approach.

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