- The term "Facies" can also refer to distinctive facial expressions associated with conditions such as Williams syndrome.
In geology, facies are a body of rock with specified characteristics. [Reading (1996)] Ideally, a facies is a distinctive rock unit that forms under certain conditions of sedimentation, reflecting a particular process or environment.
The term facies was introduced by the Swiss geologist Amanz Gressly in 1838 and was part of his significant contribution to the foundations of modern stratigraphy, [Cross and Homewood (1997)] which replaced the earlier notions of Neptunism.
Generally, facies are distinguished by what aspect of the rock or sediment is being studied. Thus, facies based on petrological
characters such as grain size and mineralogy are called lithofacies
, whereas facies based on fossil
content are called biofacies
These facies types are usually further subdivided, for examples, you might refer to a "tan, cross-bedded oolitic limestone facies" or a "shale facies". The characteristics of the rock unit come from the depositional environment and original composition. Sedimentary facies reflect depositional environment, each facies being a distinct kind of sediment for that area or environment.
Since its inception, the facies concept has been extended to related geological concepts. For example, characteristic associations of organic microfossils, and particulate organic material, in rocks or sediments, are called palynofacies. Discrete seismic units are similarly referred to as seismic facies.
The sequence of minerals that develop during progressive metamorphism
(that is, metamorphism at progressivley higher temperatures) define a facies series
and depend on the pressure, or range of pressures, at which the progressive metamorphism occurred.
Walther's Law of Facies
Walther's Law of Facies, named after the geologist Johannes Walther
, states that the vertical succession of facies reflects lateral changes in environment. Conversely, it states that when a depositional environment "migrates" laterally, sediments of one depositional environment come to lie on top of another.(Stanley, 134) A classic example of this law is the vertical stratigraphic succession that typifies marine trangressions
and regressions. However, the law is not applicable where the contact between different lithologies is non-conformable (i.e. sedimentation was not continuous), or in instances of rapid environmental change where non-adjacent environments may replace one another.
- Cross, T. A. and Homewood, P. W., (1997), Amanz Gressly's role in founding modern stratigraphy. Geological Society of America Bulletin 109 (12) 1617-1630.
- Reading, H. G. (Ed.), (1996), Sedimentary Environments and Facies. Blackwell Scientific Publications. ISBN 0-632-03627-3
- Stanley, Steven M. Earth System History. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1999. ISBN 0-7167-2882-6