Deep-water sand-fairway mapping as a tool for tectonic restoration: decoding Miocene central Mediterranean palaeogeography using the Numidian turbidites of southern Italy

Robert W H Butler* (Corresponding Author), Patricia R Pinter, Rosanna Maniscalco, Adrian J Hartley

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

As turbidity currents are sensitive to the geometry of the substrate across which they flow, the sedimentology of turbidites can chart the development of submarine structures and reveal regional palaeobathymetric connections. This rationale is applied to understand the tectonic evolution of the central Mediterranean in the early Miocene, using the African-sourced, hyper-mature Numidian sandstones and their immature, orogen-derived time-equivalents. In both Sicily and the southern Apennines, the Numidian sequence displays characteristics of confined-uncontained turbidites: grain-size breaks and coarse bedload indicative of ubiquitous flow bypass; short-range grain-size fractionation across flow; stacked sandy bed-sets in the flow axes. We reconstruct sand fairways for over 300 km across the region and propose that their causative flows, axially fed from north Africa, were confined along sinuous corridors created by active submarine thrusting. In contrast, orogen-derived turbidites (e.g. Reitano flysch, confined-contained turbidites) were ponded in mini-basins higher on the thrust wedge. The composite Apennine-Calabrian-Maghrebian orogen with its submarine thrust belt had occluded deep-water Tethyan connections through the central Mediterranean by early Miocene times. Palaeobathymetry across the submarine thrust belt increased northwards into the future Apennines. This study illustrates the utility of turbidite sedimentology, especially reconstructing sand fairways, in building palaeogeographical reconstructions of complex tectonic regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766-783
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Geological Society
Volume177
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

Keywords

  • confined turbidites
  • syn-tectonic sedimentation
  • sediment bypass
  • fold-thrust belts
  • STRUCTURAL CONSTRAINTS
  • TECTONOSEDIMENTARY EVOLUTION
  • THRUST BELTS
  • CURRENTS
  • GRES DANNOT
  • APENNINES
  • MAGHREBIAN FLYSCH BASIN
  • PLATE
  • CHANNEL SYSTEM
  • SEDIMENTARY SYSTEMS

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