The Messinian of the Nijar Basin (SE Spain): sedimentation, depositional environments and paleogeographic evolution

A.R. Fortuin, W Krijgsman

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    The reconstruction of the depositional events related to the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC) of the Mediterranean is generally hampered by an incomplete stratal record in the circum-Mediterranean basins. The sediments of the northern part of the Nijar Basin, however, provide an excellent and continuous record of Late Messinian sediments because features of severe erosion are lacking. Especially, the successions of the deeper part of the basin had sufficient accommodation space to warrant ongoing deposition and may thus serve as a testing ground for existing hypotheses regarding the MSC. Conformable contacts with the overlying Pliocene and good correlation possibilities with the adjacent, astronomically dated, Messinian of the Sorbas Basin provide the necessary age constraints.The main body of evaporites in the Nijar Basin (Yesares Formation) has been affected by local dissolution and erosion prior to deposition of the latest Messinian (Lago-Mare) facies. Pelitic float breccias show textures indicating flowage and/or mass transport and include slumped and slided stratal packets due to foundering of the mixed evaporitic-clastic margin. Increased runoff of meteoric waters probably played an important role as these packet slides are perfectly sealed by the hyposaline Lago-Mare strata. Field observations show that marginal sediments, commonly classified as the Terminal Carbonate Complex (TCC), are a lateral equivalent of the basinal Yesares evaporites.The latest Messinian deposits (Feos Formation) are characterized by a sedimentary cyclicity, related to fluctuating base levels, consisting of chalky-marly laminitic strata alternating with continental coarser clastic intervals. Despite considerable W-E facies changes and indications for discrete tectonic events, a persistent sequential pattern of eight Lago-Mare cycles is present, which are interpreted as precession-controlled variations in regional climate. Instead of one major desiccation event in the latest Messinian, the repeatedly fluctuating water levels of the Lago-Mare episode may have been the cause of the widespread vigorous erosion and canyon cutting in the "Lower Evaporites". Abrupt, non-erosional contacts with the normal marine Pliocene take place above the continental interval of the last Lago-Mare cycle, indicating that flooding took place during a period of lowered water levels.The paleogeographic configuration of the Nijar, Sorbas and Vera basins has changed considerably during the Messinian. Separation of the formerly interconnected basins is thought to have started in the late Yesares times by tectonic uplift of the basement complexes. In the latest Messinian of the Nijar Basin, two different coarse clastic supply areas can be distinguished which point to the partial emergence of the Sierra Cabrera and the Cabo de Gata block and activity of the Sierra Alhamilla and Carboneras faults. Concerning the overall regional tectonic activity, tectonics were probably also instrumental for the restoration of the Atlantic gateway in the basal Pliocene. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSedimentary Geology
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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