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The Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC) involved the progressive isolation of the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic between 5.97‐5.33 Ma and a sea‐level fall whose timing, modalities and magnitude remain actively debated. At that time, the central Mediterranean was undergoing strong tectonic activity due to the rollback of the Adria slab and eastward migration of the Apenninic belt. The combined effects of the post‐evaporitic MSC sea‐level drop and morpho‐structural changes (due to the Intra‐Messinian phase) resulted in a regional unconformity, which shows erosive markers and conformable relationships with the Messinian and Mio‐Pliocene boundary in the Po Plain and Northern Adriatic Foreland. Here, we produce a paleo‐topographic reconstruction of the Po Plain‐Northern Adriatic region (PPNA) during the Messinian peak desiccation event based on such regional unconformity. We mapped this surface through wells and 2D seismic data form Eni's private dataset. The unconformity shows V‐shaped incisions matching present‐day southern Alpine valleys and filled with Messinian post‐evaporitic and Pliocene deposits, suggesting that the modern drainage network is at least of late Messinian age. The Messinian unconformity has been restored to its original state through flexural‐backstripping numerical modelling. The resulting landscape suggests a maximum sea‐level drop of 800‐900 m during the MSC peak and is consistent with stratigraphic and sedimentologic data provided by previous works. The modelled shoreline separates the subaerially eroded land from an elongated basin composed by two ca. 400 and 1000 m deep depocenters during the maximum sea‐level drop. These results suggest that the Mediterranean was split in at least three sub‐basins subject to independent base‐levels, fresh water budgets and flexural responses during the maximum lowstand. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Restored topography of the Po Plain-Northern Adriatic region
during the Messinian base-level dropImplications for the
physiography and compartmentalization of the
palaeo-Mediterranean basin
Chiara Amadori
Daniel Garcia-Castellanos
Giovanni Toscani
Pietro Sternai
Roberto Fantoni
Manlio Ghielmi
Andrea Di Giulio
Department of Earth and Environmental
Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra Jaume
Almera, ICTJA-CSIC, Barcelona, Spain
Department of Earth Sciences, University
of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Eni Upstream & Technical Services, San
Donato Milanese, Italy
Chiara Amadori, Department of Earth and
Environmental Sciences, University of
Pavia, 27100 Pavia, Italy.
Funding information
University of Pavia, the COST Action
Network MEDSALT, Grant/Award
Number: CA15103; the Spanish
Government project MITE, Grant/Award
Number: CGL2014-59516
The Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC) involved the progressive isolation of the
Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic between 5.97 and 5.33 Ma, and a sea-level
fall whose timing, modalities, and magnitude remain actively debated. At that
time, the central Mediterranean was undergoing strong tectonic activity due to the
rollback of the Adria slab and eastward migration of the Apenninic belt. The
combined effects of the post-evaporitic MSC sea-level drop and morphostructural
changes (due to the Intra-Messinian phase) resulted in a regional unconformity,
which shows erosive markers and conformable relationships with the Messinian
and MioPliocene boundary in the Po Plain and Northern Adriatic Foreland. Here,
we produce a palaeotopographic reconstruction of the Po Plain-Northern Adriatic
region (PPNA) during the Messinian peak desiccation event based on such regio-
nal unconformity. We mapped this surface through wells and 2D seismic data
form Enis private dataset. The unconformity shows V-shaped incisions matching
the present-day southern Alpine valleys and filled with Messinian post-evaporitic
and Pliocene deposits, suggesting that the modern drainage network is at least of
late Messinian age. The Messinian unconformity has been restored to its original
state through flexural-backstripping numerical modelling. The resulting landscape
suggests a maximum sea-level drop of 800900 m during the MSC peak, and is
consistent with stratigraphic and sedimentologic data provided by previous works.
The modelled shoreline separates the subaerially eroded land from an elongated
basin composed by two ca. 400 and 1,000 m deep depocentres during the maxi-
mum sea-level drop. These results suggest that the Mediterranean was split in at
least three sub-basins subject to independent base levels, fresh-water budgets, and
flexural responses during the maximum lowstand.
©2018 The Authors. Basin Research ©2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers and International Association of Sedimentologists
Received: 1 February 2018
Revised: 21 May 2018
Accepted: 21 May 2018
DOI: 10.1111/bre.12302
Basin Research. 2018;117.
The Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC) is one of the most
extreme and debated Cenozoic environmental changes
(Rouchy & Caruso, 2006; Roveri, Flecker, et al., 2014;
Roveri, Manzi, et al., 2014; Vai, 2016 and references
therein). Diagnostic evaporitic deposits (Allen, jackson, &
Fraser, 2016; Hs
u, Cita, & Ryan, 1973; Hs
u et al., 1977;
uller & Mueller, 1991; Selli, 1960) and erosional uncon-
formities across the entire Mediterranean (Bertoni & Cart-
wright, 2006; Lofi, et al., 2005; Lofi, D
ere,et al.,
2011; Lofi, Sage, et al., 2011) enable to date this event
between 5.33 and 5.97 Ma (Krijgsman, Hilgen, Raffi,
Sierro, & Wilson, 1999; Manzi et al., 2013). Many of the
erosional unconformities merge into a single polygenic sur-
face (usually referred to as the Margin Erosional Surface
[MES] Lofi et al., 2005; CIESM, 2008, Lymer et al., 2018)
in the upstream of deep marginal and intermediate basins
(Lymer et al., 2018; Roveri, Flecker, et al., 2014), thereby
providing evidence for erosion in the Mediterranean margin.
Many of the key depositional units and erosional markers of
the MSC, however, are buried underneath kilometre-thick
sedimentary units and currently located offshore (Gorini,
Montadert, & Rabineau, 2015; Lofi, D
ere,et al.,
2011; Lofi, Sage, et al., 2011; Thinon et al., 2016; Urgeles
et al., 2011), while accessible outcrops are strongly
deformed by late Cenozoic tectonics (e.g., Sicily, Butler,
Lickorish, Grasso, & Pedley, 1995; Caruso, Pierre, Blanc-
Valleron, & Rouchy, 2015). Therefore, assessing the magni-
tude of the drawdown and the resulting palaeogeography of
the Mediterranean area during the MSC acme is still diffi-
cult (e.g., Bache et al., 2012; Blanc, 2006; Cita & Corselli,
1990; Hs
u et al., 1977; Jolivet, Augier, Robin, Suc, & Rou-
chy, 2006; Meijer & Krijgsman, 2005; Roveri, Flecker,
et al., 2014; Roveri, Manzi, et al., 2014; Sternai et al.,
2017; Vai, 2016). Previous numerical modelling produced
quantitative estimates regarding sea-level and salinity varia-
tions, as well as the flexural response at the Mediterranean
scale (Gargani & Rigollet, 2007; Govers, Meijer, & Krijgs-
man, 2009; Meijer & Krijgsman, 2005; Meijer, Slingerland,
& Wortel, 2004). Given the regional length scales, these
studies used relatively low-resolution Messinian key-hori-
zons with minor geological control on the palinspastic
retrodeformation or lithofacies record. Although the separa-
tion between the western and eastern Mediterranean basins
by the Sicily sill is accepted (Gargani & Rigollet, 2007;
Micallef et al., 2018; Ryan, 2009), uncertainties exist
regarding the central Mediterranean and, particularly, its
northernmost sector, the Po Plain and Adriatic basin. During
the Messinian, this sector of the Mediterranean was a com-
plex puzzle of fragmented carbonate platforms, basins and
outcropping Apennines which is challenging to restore at a
regional scale (Jolivet et al., 2006; Mantovani et al., 2014;
Matano, Critelli, Barone, Muto, & di Nocera, 2014; Patacca
& Scandone, 2007). Within this scenario, the possibility that
smaller basins and their connections during the MSC has
not been taken into account by previous numerical mod-
elling studies.
We model the sea-level drop of the Po Plain-Northern
Adriatic foreland basin (PPNA) during the Messinian based
on its detailed stratigraphic record in order to better under-
stand its connectivity with the rest of the Mediterranean
Sea during the MSC. To this aim, we analyse public and
private (courtesy of Eni Upstream) subsurface data and
carry out a 3D reconstruction of the subaerial and sub-
marine landscape of the Po Pain and Adriatic foreland dur-
ing the MSC desiccation peak, that is, after the MSC stage
1 according to the chronostratigraphy by Roveri, Flecker,
et al. (2014), Roveri, Manzi, et al. (2014), Roveri et al.
(2016). We take advantage from high-resolution strati-
graphic data (e.g., sedimentological, palaeontological, and
geochemical data) and detailed geological constraints (e.g.,
seismic-based and well logs) for the study region also pro-
vided by recent works (Ghielmi, Minervini, Nini, Rogledi,
& Rossi, 2010, 2013; Rossi, 2017; Rossi, Minervini, &
Ghielmi, 2018; Rossi, Minervini, Ghielmi, & Rogledi,
2015). We are able to (a) provide the palaeotopography of
the PPNA, which improves our understanding of the basin
evolution and its relationships with the broader Mediter-
ranean palaeogeography during the MSC, and (b) recognize
V-shaped valleys filled with Messinian post-evaporitic and
Pliocene deposits in the seismic data along the Southern
Alps, which imply a syn-MSC or older age of the present-
day southern Alpine river drainage pattern.
The present fluvial network draining the South-
ern Alps can be dated back to at least the late
The first restored landscape of the Po Plain-
Northern Adriatic region during the maximum
MSC sea-level drop.
The flexural-backstripping modelling best
matches the geological constrains when an 800
900 m drawdown is imposed.
This implies that the Mediterranean was divided
into sub-basins with independent base-level and
water budgets.
The restriction of the Po Plain area and Adriatic
Sea can explain the lack of halite and potassium-
rich salts.
Tectonic shortening affected the PPNA at different times
and with variable directions during the Cenozoic (e.g.,
Toscani et al., 2016). Since the middlelate Miocene, the
thrust front of the Northern Apennine thrust-fold-belt
bounds to the southwest the Po Plain and Northern Adriatic
Foredeep Basins (Fantoni & Franciosi, 2010; Ghielmi
FIGURE 1 (a) Tectonic map of the study area. (b) Geological section (a-a) along profile, modified from Toscani et al. (2014). See
Figure 1a for location. (c) Seismic profile in TWT (b-b) (see Figure 1a for location) from Eni dataset from the Northern Apennines thrust-fold
belt to the Southern Alps. Seismic data has European normal standard. Grey scale Amplitude in the range of 18.00
et al., 2013; Rossi et al., 2015). The Western and Southern
Alps bound the Western Po Plain foredeep basins to the
north, while the PPNA is connected to the northeast to the
VenetianFriulian Basin (Figure 1a).
During the Messinian, the whole Apennine thrust belt
experienced a period of strong tectonic accretion, defined
as Intra-Messinian phase (Ghielmi et al., 2010, 2013; Man-
tovani et al., 2014; Matano et al., 2014). The PPNA was
marked by a strong sedimentary and tectonic reorganization
related to combined effects of the MSC drawdown and
morphostructual reshaping, resulting in an angular uncon-
formity overlaid by post-evaporitic Messinian prograding
systems or transgressive Pliocene deposits (Ghielmi et al.,
2010, 2013; Rossi, 2017; Rossi et al., 2015, 2018). In seis-
mic profiles on the basin margins, this unconformity shows
erosive markers (truncation of the MSC lower evaporates
or pre-MSC succession) at the base of forced regressive
deltaic systems and predominantly conformable relation-
ships basinward through the entire Messinian sequence and
MioPliocene boundary (Figure 1c). Unlike the western
and eastern Mediterranean offshore (Lofi, D
ere,et al.,
2011; Lofi, Sage, et al., 2011), the PPNA region was not a
fully evaporative basin during the MSC (Ghielmi et al.,
2010, 2013), as suggested by the absence of halite and
potassium-rich salts deposition in the entire Adriatic fore-
land (Ryan, 2009). Geophysical investigations in the Po
Plain led Ghielmi et al. (2010, 2013) and Rossi et al.
(2015) to reconstruct syn- and post-evaporitic lithofacies
associations distribution maps (i.e., continental vs marine
shelf-to-basin sediments), showing evidence for a thick
coastal wedge where the complete Messinian succession is
preserved, included pre-evaporitic deposits. Instead, in the
northern and eastern Adriatic foreland, Messinian sediments
are poorly preserved or lacking (Figure 2a). In detail, cyc-
lic gypsum and anhydrite deposits (maximum thickness in
well ~250 m) are observed only in marine foreland shelves
(along the northern margin of the PPNA) and hypersaline
piggy-back basins on the Northern Apennine belt, overlain
by post-evaporitic Messinian brackish sequences (Artoni
et al., 2007, 2010; Ghielmi et al., 2010, 2013; Pellen et al.,
2017; Rossi et al., 2015). In the deep part of the basin, the
sedimentary sequence is only composed of siliciclastic
deposits, also during the MSC post-evaporitic maximum
desiccation phase (Ghielmi et al., 2010). According to this
geological setting, the Po Plan-Adriatic basin can be
defined as an intermediate basin sensu Lymer et al. (2018).
Lymer et al. (2018) describe intermediate basins as located
between peripheral shallow basins (with the presence of
lower evaporates only overlain by Pliocene deposits) and
deep basins (with the presence of thick halite), covering a
wide range of both bathymetries and MSC deposits.
Late Messinian incised valleys in the VenetianFriulian
Basin onshore and offshore (Donda et al., 2013; Toscani
et al., 2016; Zecchin, Donda, & Forlin, 2017) led to suggest a
FIGURE 2 Cross-correlation panel by
well log analysis. PS (Spontaneous
Potential), RES (Resistivity). (a) Red stars
are wells from ViDEPI project showing the
extended erosion and the complete lack of
Messinian deposits. From NW to SE:
Ornella 1, Glenda 1 and Alessandra 1
wells. See Figure 1a for location. (b) White
stars are wells from Eni private database
showing late Messinian depocentre filled
with post-evaporitic turbidites of the
Fusignano Fm. overlying a syn-evaporitic
sequence (gypsum and/or anhydrite)
thinning towards the NE Adriatic foreland
ramp. Note that electric logs data for the
second well to the SW does not reach the
bottom of the PlioPleistocene but the
stratigraphic column includes 33 m of
Messinian brackish fine deposits and 17 m
of evaporites. See Figure 1a for location
maximum relative sea-level drop in the Northern Adriatic
region of more than 100200 m during MSC acme, but not
exceeding 900 m (Ghielmi et al., 2013). This is in divergence
with previous interpretations from Roveri, Flecker, et al.
(2014), Roveri, Manzi, et al. (2014), Roveri et al. (2016)
based on modelling submarine dense water cascading from
the shelf areas producing canyons without the need of signifi-
cant drawdown. Roveri et al. (2016) extended the proposal of
a relatively minor MSC sea-level drop (100200 m) to the
entire Mediterranean, in contrast with other estimates suggest-
ing between 1,300 and 2,000 m of sea-level drop (Ryan,
1976; Stampfli & Hocker, 1989; Clauzon, Suc, Gautier, Ber-
ger, & Loutre, 1996; Krijgsman et al., 1999; Blanc, 2000;
Meijer & Krijgsman, 2005; Maillard & Mauffret, 2006; Urge-
les et al., 2011; Cameselle & Urgeles, 2016; see Vai, 2016 for
a review; Sternai et al., 2017).
We use public (ViDEPI Project,
and private (courtesy of Eni Upstream) 2D seismic reflec-
tion profiles and hydrocarbon wells data from the PPNA
region (Figure 3) to reconstruct the 3D surface of the
unconformity formed during the MSC acme. The seismic
dataset is composed of about 8,000 km of seismic reflec-
tion profiles (both onshore and offshore) and it has been
integrated with published data both for the western (Bigi,
Cosentino, Parotto, Sartori, & Scandone, 1992; Fantoni,
Bersezio, & Forcella, 2004; Fantoni, Massari, Minervini,
Rogledi, & Rossi, 2001; Mosca, 2006; Rossi, 2017) (Fig-
ure 3b,d) and eastern (Toscani et al., 2016) parts of the
study area (Figure 3c). Wells data (Eni private database
and ViDEPI project) include both stratigraphy and well
logs from about 200 wells (Figure 3a).
The Messinian key-horizon has been interpreted in 2D
seismic lines and recognized in well logs. In order to create
a 3D time-surface from scattered data, we used the Delau-
nay triangulation method and smoothed the resulting sur-
face using a characteristic length scale of 3 km to remove
asperities due to the noise in the data and interpolation
method. The resultant 3D time-surface has been depth-con-
verted using a homogeneous seismic wave velocity value
of 2,000 m/s, an average value obtained considering both
confidential (time-velocity tables of ENI wells) and public
data (e.g., Bresciani & Perotti, 2014; ISPRA, 2015; Moli-
nari, Argnani, Morelli, & Basini, 2015).
In addition to the MES, this research involves two other
surfaces: (a) the Mesozoic carbonates top surface in depth
domain, taken as the fully compacted basementfor the
backstripping analysis (digitalized after Turrini, Lacombe,
& Roure, 2014; Turrini, Toscani, Lacombe, & Roure,
2016; Toscani et al., 2016) (Figure 1b, c) and (b) the pre-
sent-day topography (after GTOPO30;
gov/GTOPO30) corrected to account for Pleistocene
erosion of the European Alps and the related unload and
isostatic adjustment (after Sternai et al., 2012). The top of
the precollisional carbonate basement is an important sur-
face for hydrocarbon because it corresponds to the top of a
deep oil play and the major seismic marker for the related
structure interpretation (Turrini et al., 2014, 2016).
The restoration of the regional palaeotopography during
the maximum MSC drawdown was obtained following the
workflow outlined in Figure 4a and using the TISC soft-
ware (Garcia-Castellanos, 2002; Garcia-Castellanos,
es, Gaspar-Escribano, & Cloetingh, 2003). We account
for sediment decompaction and for the 2D (planform) flex-
ural-isostatic adjustment associated with unloading by the
removal of post-Messinian sediments and the missing water
column during the MSC acme (Figure 4). In summary, the
FIGURE 3 (a) Study area and
complete dataset. Red lines correspond to
the ENI seismic grid, while yellow lines
correspond to the seismic profiles by public
ViDEPI dataset. Black squares are drillings
from both private and public database. (b)
Area where the dataset has been integrated
with observations from Fantoni et al.
(2004), Mosca (2006), Bigi et al. (1992),
Rossi (2017). (c) Area where the dataset
has been integrated with observations from
Toscani et al. (2016). (d) Area where the
dataset has been integrated with
observations from Fantoni et al. (2001)
workflow involves: (i) removal of the shallowest strati-
graphic unit and calculation of the flexural-isostatic
response, (ii) decompaction of the underlying sedimentary
units, (iii) removal of the water layer and calculation of the
corresponding flexural-isostatic response. This is a standard
methodology in subsidence basin analysis (Allen & Allen,
1990; Bell et al., 2014). Decompaction is conducted by
calculating near-surface porosity, decay constants, and bulk
densities for lithologies observed in wells and also using
the relationships provided by Sclater and Cristie (1980)
(see Table 1). We assigned uniform surface porosity, bulk
density, and porosity-depth exponential coefficient to the
analysed volumes. We disregard gradual sediment com-
paction because the model is time-independent and we are
not interested on the evolution of subsidence but on the
total amount of post-Messinian subsidence. We also disre-
gard nonuniform grain size or sediment facies distribution
because of lack of deep wells with pre-MSC detailed data
covering the entire region. Following previous numerical
models on MSC river erosion and water/evaporation bud-
get, we assume that the sea-level before the MSC was
close to the present-day one (Blanc, 2006; Gargani &
Rigollet, 2007; Loget, Van Den Driessche, & Davy, 2005;
Miller et al., 2005). The most representative lithologies
within the Palaeogenelate Messinian sediments (volume to
be decompacted) are marine marls (i.e., Scaglia Formation
and Gallare Group) and sandstones (i.e., Gonfolite Group
and latest Tortoniansyn-evaporitic Messinian turbidites of
Bagnolo Formation) with an averaged lithology type of
75% shale and 25% sand (Table 1). The upper volume to
be removed is mostly represented by kilometre-thick Plio
Pleistocene turbidites (variable in clay content) and fine-
grained foreland deposits (i.e., Zanclean marine shales).
The averaged lithology type is similar to the Shaley
Sandstonedefined by Sclater and Cristie (1980; Table 1).
The density of both the removed seawater and the remain-
ing water volume during the MSC drop is assumed to be
1,030 kg/m
like the current average seawater density at
the surface (Beicher, 2000). Finally, the basement density
was set to 2,850 kg/m
(Ebbing, Braitenberg, & Gotze,
The restoration of the tectonic deformation of the basin
was carried out removing the vertical component of the
main PliocenePleistocene thrusts and anticlines of the
Northern Apennines and Western and Southern Alps,
according to published uplift data (Scrocca, Carminati,
Doglioni, & Marcantoni, 2007; Toscani et al., 2014; Mae-
sano, DAmbrogi, Burrato, & Toscani, 2015; Bresciani &
Perotti, 2014; Table 2) (Figure 5a). In performing this
operation, we neglect horizontal deformation given that
previous works suggest between 10 and 20 km of average
horizontal shortening (~10% with respect to the basin
width) along the Northern Apennine front in the Po basin
since the late Messinian (Figure 5b) (Bigi et al., 1995; de
Donatis, 2001; Perotti, 1991; Toscani et al., 2014), which
translates into minor strain at the basin scale. This is also
in agreement with the regional-scale Apennine eastward
migration (since ~5 Ma up to present position) recon-
structed by Carminati, Lustrino, Cuffaro, and Doglioni
(2010). We assume such limited shortening does not affect
the modelling.
The depth-converted late Messinian unconformity of the
PPNA with 500 m contouring is shown in Figure 6. The
overall northern margin of the PPNA appears incised by
FIGURE 4 (a) Work flow used to restore the Messinian landscape during the maximum sea-level draw down. (b) Conceptual model of the
backstripping procedure applied to the basin
ca. N-S and NW-SE trending valleys. In detail, in the
southern Alpine sector the incisions show steep V-shape
morphologies (Figures 6 and 7), cutting upslope
OligoceneLate Miocene sediments (Figure 7c). These can-
yons are filled with Messinian post-evaporitic fluvial con-
glomerates of the Sergnano Fm and PlioPleistocene
turbidites (Figure 7c). The volume to be removed is mainly
composed by kilometre-thick PlioPleistocene turbidites,
dominant with respect to the late Messinian deposits. From
the Alpine land outcrops to the deep Po Plain, the Messi-
nian succession appears incomplete, which is likely due to
erosion and forced regression of the fluvio-deltaic systems
during base-level lowering, as also pointed out by Rossi
et al. (2015, 2018). In the eastern Adriatic foreland ramp,
late Messinian sediments are poorly preserved or com-
pletely lacking (Figure 2a). From 3D depth reconstruction,
these fluvial incisions propagated at least 50 km inland,
with the maximum depth reaching ~1 km in the central Po
Plain (Figures 6 and 7a,b).
Parametric study for the backstripping
In order to test the sensibility to the input parameters
(Table 3) and investigate different scenarios, we run a ser-
ies of flexural-backstripping calculations looking for the
best fit model with respect to the constrains provided by
the data described in section Datasets and methods. In par-
ticular, in this section, we explore the sensitivity of model
predictions in terms of the restored palaeo-shoreline posi-
tion and the fit to the geological constraints to input param-
eters such as:
The amount of sea-level lowering, that is, 200/850/
1,500 m to account for previously proposed MSC sce-
narios (e.g.; Ryan & Cita, 1978; Gargani, 2004; Manzi,
Lugli, Ricci Lucchi, & Roveri, 2005; Urgeles et al.,
2011; Ghielmi et al., 2013; Roveri, Flecker, et al., 2014;
Roveri, Manzi, et al., 2014),
The lithospheric elastic thickness, Te, that is, 10, 20,
45 km to account for plausible rheological conditions of
the Adriatic continental basement (Barbieri, Bertotti, Di
Giulio, Fantoni, & Zoetemeijer, 2004; Kroon, 2002;
Kruse & Royden, 1994; Moretti & Royden, 1988; Roy-
den, 1988) and
Different lithological characteristics of the sediments, in
order to test how different sand-clay proportions affect
the basement isostatic response.
The effect on the lithospheric post-Messinian vertical
motions by the sea-level drop and elastic thickness varia-
tions appear as the most relevant (Figure 8), while, varying
only the porosity of the pre- and post-Messinian sediment
volumes imply variations in the estimates by less than
TABLE 1 Parameters for different lithologies from BasinMod2014 software and used for decompaction and uplift calculation
References Lithology type
mixing (%) Porosity
Exp compac.
coeff (1/km)
density (kg/m
density (kg/m
Sclater and Cristie (1980) Sandstone 100% Sand 0.49 0.27 2,650 2,096
Sclater and Cristie (1980) Shale 100% Shale 0.63 0.51 2,720 2,140
Sclater and Cristie (1980) Shaley Sandstone 50% Sand 50% Shale 0.56 0.39 2,680 2,115
BasinMod2014 library Sandy Shales 75% Shale 25% Sand 0.563 0.45 2,700 2,149
TABLE 2 Structure code name and location in Figure 5 from Maesano et al. (2015); geometric features of the fault and the vertical
component considering the age interval of the tectonic activity (see Figure 5a for location)
Structure References Fault dip Total slip (m) Age interval (Ma)
Vertical component
to be removed (m)
MI Scrocca et al. (2007) -- 1.40 570
T5FF Maesano et al. (2015) 40°1,659 3.60 1,059
T6FF Maesano et al. (2015) 25°750 1.810 315
T9RF in Maesano et al. (2015) 30°3,178 3.60 1,589
T9RF out Maesano et al. (2015) 30°1,425 3.60 815
T2EF Maesano et al. (2015) 40°703 3.60 1,400
T3EF Maesano et al. (2015) 40°340 1.810 950
Romanengo Bresciani and Perotti (2014) - - 5.330 1,150
Anticline (RA) Maesano et al. (2015)
100 m (Table 3). The estimated coastline location also
depends primarily on the morphology of the basin and its
slope. In the Adriatic foreland, the horizontal position of
the shoreline shifts by up to ~150 km for sea-level drop
>1 km (Figure 8c) due to the low basin slope. The steeper
northern basin margin implies limited migration of the
shoreline if the sea-level drop is 800900 m, while a sig-
nificant basinward migration of the coastline is observed
for imposed drawdown >~1.5 km (Figure 8c,d,e). We
remark that, overall, sea-level changes smaller than 50 m
do not significantly affect the results of the backstripping
analysis. For this reason, model predictions for each sea-
level drop can be extended within a 50 m interval.
Preferred model
Our preferred reconstruction of the late Messinian uncon-
formity within the PPNA basin accounts for an 850 m sea-
FIGURE 5 (a) Current position of the main late Messinian
Northern Apennines and Southern Alps thrusts buried in the Po Plain
(solid black lines) and PlioPleistocene thrust fronts (dashed black
lines). Symbols and code name refer to the location of the main Plio
Pleistocene structures vertically restored (see Table 2). (b) Black lines
show the current position of main late Messinian Northern Apennines
and Southern Alps thrusts buried in the Po Plain subsurface,
compared with their restored late Messinian position (red lines),
according with shortening values from the bibliography (see text for
FIGURE 6 Map of the reconstructed MES with 500 m
contouring with respect to the modern topography
FIGURE 7 (a) Map of the reconstructed MES in the central
Southern Alps, zoom from Figure 6, with 500 m contouring with
respect to the modern topography. Blue lines show the present-day
fluvial network. (b) Profile (in depth domain) along the trace a-a.
The black line is the present-day topography (vertically exaggerated)
and the red line is the MES. Note the match between the locations of
valleys on the modern topography and the MES. (c) Seismic profile
along b-btrace is from Eni private dataset. It shows some details of
two canyons in the bedrock below the Po Plain. Note the good fit
between the present-day Serio river location and the Messinian
incision (MES) directly below. The green line (TES, as Top Erosion
Surface) is a successive erosional phase (base Zanclean) that removed
the most of the post-evaporitic fluvial gravels delta system (with high
amplitude reflector facies). Only some remnants were preserved at the
bottom valley and on top of interfluve. The palaeo-valley is then
sealed by PlioPleistocene turbidites. Blue line corresponds to the
Intra-Zanclean Unconformity (I-ZU). Pre-Messinian deposits refer to
the OligoMiocene succession.
level drop, Te equal to 20 km, decompacted sediments
made of 75% clay and 25% sand and bulk density of vol-
ume to be removed of 2,115 kg/m
(Table 1 and Figure 9).
These input parameter values are supported by previous
studies or direct analysis on the region. For instance, the
selected northern Adria plate lithospheric elastic thickness
is consistent with results from Moretti and Royden (1988),
Royden (1988) and Barbieri et al. (2004) and the lithology
parameters are averaged from the deepest drilling and log
analyses. The imposed amount of drawdown improves the
fit between the modelled shoreline and sedimentological
constrains, that is, coastal wedge position, fluvial drainage
network, erosional surface (Fantoni et al., 2001; Ghielmi
et al., 2010, 2013; Rossi, 2017; Rossi et al., 2015, 2018)
(Figures 2 and 9b,c), and continental versus marine shelf-
to-basin facies boundary from the facies associations distri-
bution map of the post-evaporitic sequence published by
Ghielmi et al. (2010, 2013) (Figure 9a). In addition, the
output is consistent with the maximum base-level lowering
of 900 m, as estimated by Ghielmi et al. (2013) through
local investigations within the Po-Plain onshore (but never
extended throughout the Po Plain western sector and North-
ern Adriatic offshore).
According to our preferred model, the PPNA region
was a narrow basin with two definite submarine depocen-
tres during the maximum Messinian drawdown. In the
western Po Plain, the depocentre was nearly 400 m deep,
while a wider WNW-ESE trending and ~1,000 m deep
depocentre was located to the east, where the maximum
isostatic uplift occurred (~995 m, Figure 10). Terrigenous
turbidite deposition was enhanced in both sub-basins dur-
ing Messinian time by the exposure of the pre-Messinian
shelf (Figure 9c) and by the accelerated erosion of the sur-
rounding belts. To the NE, the VenetianFriulian Basin is
TABLE 3 Table of maximum uplift variations under different input parameters: sediments porosity, Te, and sea-level drops
Post-MES vol.
Pre-MES vol.
porosity Te (km)
Uplift max (m)
(200 m drop)
Uplift max (m)
(850 m drop)
Uplift max (m)
(1,500 m drop)
50sh50s 75sh25s 10 1,109.6 1,306.6 1,452.1
50sh50s 100% shale 10 1,109.5 1,303.3 1,441
50sh50s 100% sand 10 1,109.7 1,310.2 1,467.3
50sh50s 75sh25s 20 829.7 994.9 1,091.3
50sh50s 100% shale 20 829.4 989.1 1,079.7
50sh50s 100%sand 20 830.1 1,002.1 1,108.5
50sh50s 75sh25s 45 488.7 603.4 654.4
50sh50s 100% shale 45 488.3 599.7 646.9
50sh50s 100% sand 45 489.2 608.3 665.7
100% shale 75sh25s 10 1,133.7 1,329.9 1,473.4
100% shale 100% shale 10 1,133.6 1,326.4 1,462
100% shale 100% sand 10 1,133.8 1,333.8 1,488.9
100% shale 75sh25s 20 847.4 1,011.4 1,106.6
100% shale 100% shale 20 847.1 1,005.5 1,094.8
100% shale 100% sand 20 847.8 1,018.9 1,124
100% shale 75sh25s 45 498.9 604.5 663.6
100% shale 100% shale 45 498.5 600.9 656
100% shale 100% sand 45 499.4 609.4 674.9
100% sand 75sh25s 10 1,091.3 1,288.8 1,435.9
100% sand 100% shale 10 1,091.2 1,285.7 1,425
100% sand 100% sand 10 1,091.4 1,292.3 1,450.8
100% sand 75sh25s 20 816.3 982.3 1,079.7
100% sand 100% shale 20 816 976.6 1,068.1
100% sand 100% sand 20 816.7 989.2 1,096.8
100% sand 75sh25s 45 480.9 587.4 647.5
100% sand 100% shale 45 480.5 583.8 639.9
100% sand 100% sand 45 481.4 592.2 658.7
subaerially exposed during the maximum Messinian sea-
level drop, a result that agrees with the proposed fluvial
origin of the incised valleys and dendritic drainage network
in the present-day onshore and offshore subsurface (Donda
et al., 2013; Ghielmi et al., 2010, 2013; Toscani et al.,
2016; Zecchin et al., 2017) (Figure 9b). Further to the east,
a vast portion of the Mesozoic Istrian-Dalmatian platform,
located in present-day Croatia region (Figure 1a) and the
Adriatic Sea, were subaerially exposed, which is also in
agreement with previous works (Veli
c, Malvi
c, Cvetkovi
& Veli
c, 2015) (Figures 2a and 9a).
The timing of the end of the southern Alpine tectonic
deformation is well defined by seismic reflection profiles
and exploration wells showing that Messinian post-evapori-
tic deposits (i.e., fluvio-deltaic forced regressive systems,
Sergnano Fm.) and early Pliocene turbidite units are mostly
undeformed (Fantoni et al., 2001, 2004; Livio et al., 2009;
Pieri & Groppi, 1981; Rossi, 2017) (Figure 7c). Addition-
ally, the good fit between the subsurface incised valleys
and the present-day river network flowing into the Po
River alluvial plain reveals that the southern Alpine
drainage pattern ~6 million years ago was very similar to
the modern configuration (Figure 7). Moreover, the equiva-
lent spatial fit in the alluvial plain might possibly be due to
the differential subsidence between the siliciclastic- and
mud-filled incised valleys and their interfluves (Figure 7c).
One may interpret that the erosional features recognized
below the central Southern Alps (Figures 6 and 7) testify
that the margin underwent subaereal erosion as the base
level dropped by hundreds of metres during the MSC. The
Alpine rivers carved V-shaped valleys up to 1 km deep
across the modern Po Basin and incised at least 50 km far
into the Alps. Regressive erosion due to the Messinian
drawdown shaped the cryptodepressions (sensu Bini, Cita,
& Gaetani, 1978) that today confine the glacial Alpine
lakes of northern Italy (e.g., Maggiore, Lugano, Como,
Iseo, and Garda lake) as first suggested by Bini et al.
(1978), Finckh (1978), Rizzini and Dondi (1978). Simi-
larly, several canyons that underlie current valleys have
been documented all around the Mediterranean marginal
regions, such as in the Nile, Rhone, Var Valleys, Alboran
sill, and the Ebro River (Barber, 1981; Chumakov, 1973;
Clauzon, 1982; Loget, Davy, & Van Den Driessche, 2006;
Loget et al., 2005; Urgeles et al., 2011).
The main features of the restored late Messinian land-
scape of the PPNA region are two major depocentres
(a) (b)
(d) (e)
FIGURE 8 Palaeogeography obtained
by modelling two extreme scenarios
involving the same Te (20 km) and
lithologic properties but (a) 200 m and (b)
1,500 m MSC sea-level drawdown. Red
contour lines are the corresponding
calculated flexural uplift. (c, d, e) Shoreline
migration produced by imposing different
magnitude of sea-level drop and Te values.
For these models, fixed lithologic properties
were considered
subject to turbiditic deposition throughout the Messinian,
rimmed by exposed marine shelves and localized hyper-
saline basins, in agreement with previous studies by Artoni
et al. (2007, 2010) and Rossi et al. (2015) (Figures 2 and
9). The proposed ~850 m drop is significantly lower than
the 1,3002,000 m drawdown suggested by several
authors. Among them, Ryan (1976), Blanc (2000), Gargani
(2004), Meijer and Krijgsman (2005), Gargani and Rigollet
(2007), Sternai et al. (2017) sustain a kilometre sea-level
drop on the basis of numerical modelling. Additionally,
morphological evidences from seismics and well data have
revealed depositional processes associated with the emer-
sion of continental margins (e.g., Gulf of Lions, Valencia-
Ebro margin) compatible with ~1,500 m base-level fall
(Ryan & Cita 1978; Stampfli & Hocker 1989; Clauzon
et al., 1996; Maillard & Mauffret 2006; Bache et al., 2009;
Urgeles et al.; 2011; Cameselle & Urgeles 2016).
Thus, we support the PPNA region as a restricted elon-
gated foreland basin physically disconnected from the rest
of the Mediterranean during the MSC post-evaporitic acme
and subject to an independent hydrological balance in a
way similar to that discussed by Blanc (2006) and Bache
et al. (2012). This imposed a geomorphological base level
in our study region shallower than that in the west and east
Mediterranean sub-basins. Regarding the location of the
morphological high separating the PPNA basin from the
rest of the Mediterranean, the Adria foreland offshore
offers a complex distribution of carbonate platforms and
tectonic deformations suitable to sustain the hypothesis of
at least one major palaeo-sill in the area. For instance, in
the central Adriatic Sea, there is an important alignment of
structural highs deformed during the OligoMiocene
accompanied by halokinetic activity (Pikelj, Hernitz-
cenjak, A
c, & Jura
c, 2015) (also known as the Mid-
Adriatic Ridge), although growth strata above Messinian
evaporates show higher uplift activity during the Plio
Pleistocene time (Del Ben, Geletti, & Mocnik, 2010; Scis-
ciani & Calamita, 2009). The region of the Apulian plat-
form in the southern Adriatic Sea, however, is probably the
best candidate for the location of the barrier separating the
Apennine foredeep during the MSC desiccation peak from
the rest of the Mediterranean. Cita and Corselli (1990),
Clauzon et al. (2005), Bache et al. (2012), Santantonio,
Scrocca, and Lipparini (2013), and Pellen et al. (2017)
inferred that a divide was probably located between the
present-day GarganoPelagosa region in the southern Adri-
atic Sea. Seismic data and well log analysis of southern
Italy onshore and offshore (De Alteriis, 1995; Pellen et al.,
2017; Santantonio et al., 2013; Scrocca, 2010) reveal a
submarine high carbonate structure (cropping out in the
Puglia region) with a stratigraphic hiatus and an erosive
surface on Messinian evaporites, that further supports the
palaeogeographic reconstruction published by Vai (2016).
Although the timing of closure and reopening of the
southern Adriatic sill during the late Messinian is beyond
the purpose of this work, the presence of marine bioevents
(e.g., the first occurrence of Turborotalita multiloba and
the Neogloboquadrina acostanesis sx/dx coiling change) in
the pre-MSC sequences (Blanc-Valleron et al., 2002;
FIGURE 9 (a) Restored late Messinian landscape, with 200 m
contouring applying, from our preferred model accounting for a
850 m sea-level drop. The dotted black line shows the continental vs
marine shelf-to-basin facies boundary by Ghielmi et al. (2010, 2013).
(b) TWT amplitude colour map of the MES showing a subaerial
drainage network (after Ghielmi et al., 2010). (c) Seismic map (TWT)
of the Messinian unconformity showing the dip morphological
seismic attribute (after Ghielmi et al., 2010, 2013 and Rossi, 2017).
The pre-evaporitic shoreline break is highlighted in the northeast.
Some NE-SW Pliocene incisions with retrogressive slump scars can
be observed
FIGURE 10 Map of the estimated isostatic uplift for our
preferred model (Te 20 km and MSC sea-level drop of 850 m).
White lines show the restored position of the main Northern
Apennine and Southern Alpine thrust fronts during the late Messinian
Caruso et al., 2015; Gennari et al., 2013; Sierro, Hilgen,
Krijgsman, & Flores, 2001), the reconstruction of the near
Tertiary Piedmont Basin (TPB) (Figure 1a) based on the
Lower Evaporites gypsum (Dela Pierre et al., 2011) and
the quasi-uniform
Sr values of the Lower Evaporites
throughout the Mediterranean (Roveri, Flecker, et al.,
2014; Schildgen et al., 2014) suggest that the Po-Adriatic
basin was connected to the rest of the Mediterranean at
least during the pre-evaporitic and syn-evaporitic phases.
The isolation of the PPNA basin from the Mediterranean
occurred only after the deposition of the Lower Evaporites,
that is during the maximum sea-level drop correlated with
the TG12 or both TG12 and TG14 glacial intervals (Cosen-
tino et al., 2013; Krijgsman & Meijer, 2008) is still consis-
tent with our preferred model. This, however, implies an
abrupt change in the integrated balance between river dis-
charge, precipitation, evaporation, and uplift rate to explain
the rapid base-level change. A positive freshwater budget
may prevent salt saturation, explaining why halite or other
high soluble K-rich salts did not accumulate in the entire
Adriatic region during MSC. The PPNA syn- and post-eva-
poritic Messinian deposits may indeed reflect a complex
equilibrium between high fresh-water input provided by the
large rivers draining the Alpine belt and the progressive
increase in salinity due to the MSC. This would cause pre-
cipitation of gypsum and anhydrite only in restricted basins
in the Northern Apennine, like the Tertiary Piedmont basin,
piggy-back basin, and very localized sectors of the Po
Plain-Northern Adriatic shelf (Artoni et al., 2007, 2010;
Dela Pierre et al., 2011; Ghielmi et al., 2013; Rossi et al.,
2002, 2015), coeval with siliciclastic deposition in the
residual, deep depocenters (Ghielmi et al., 2010, 2013;
Rossi et al., 2015).
The restored landscape of the PPNA region during the
maximum MSC sea-level drop (Figure 9) allows outlining
the following conclusions.
The flexural-backstripping modelling best matches the
available subsurface stratigraphic and facies distribution
data when an 800900 m drawdown is imposed; thus,
the sea-level fall related to the MSC maximum lowstand
in the study area is not only smaller than that inferred
for the eastern and western Mediterranean (1,300 m or
more), but also significantly larger than ~200 m pro-
posed by Roveri, Flecker, et al. (2014), Roveri, Manzi,
et al. (2014), Roveri et al. (2016) for the entire Mediter-
ranean area.
This result implies that, at a broader scale, during maxi-
mum sea-level fall, the Mediterranean was divided into
at least three sub-basins (the two major western and
eastern Mediterranean Basins and PPNA) with indepen-
dent base-level evolutions and water budgets. The sepa-
ration from the rest of the Mediterranean can partly
explain the lack of halite and potassium-rich salts in the
Po Plain area and Adriatic Sea.
The present-day fluvial network flows directly above
buried incised valleys into the Southern Alpine basement
below the Po Plain. The match in the flat plain is proba-
bly due to differential compaction of sediments between
incised valley fills and interfluves. This suggests that the
present fluvial network draining the Southern Alps can
be dated back to at least the late Messinian.
Finally, based on our results, we suggest that caution
should be used in performing analyses addressing the
amount of drawdown during the MSC at the whole Mediter-
ranean scale and support, for this purpose, the generation and
use of high-resolution stratigraphic data (e.g., sedimentologi-
cal, palaeontological, and geochemical data) and/or models
(i.e., seismic-based constrained by well log data).
ViDEPI Project,
Eni Upstream is acknowledged for the permission to con-
sult its reflection seismic profiles dataset. This paper is the
result of the Amadori PHD research project funded by the
University of Pavia, the COST Action Network MEDSALT
(CA15103) and by the Spanish Government project MITE
(CGL2014-59516). The authors thank Angelo Camerlenghi,
Massimo Zecchin, and Christian Gorini for their construc-
tive comments to the early version of the manuscript.
Above all, we thank Clara R. Rodriguez, Gael Lymer, and
one anonymous reviewer for their very helpful comments
and refinements to the manuscript. Halliburton and Platte
River Associates Inc. are kindly acknowledged for provid-
ing DecisionSpace and BasinMod2014 software licenses.
Midland Valley Exploration Ltd. is kindly acknowledged
for MOVE software licenses provided to the University of
Pavia within the ASI (Academic Software Initiative). Spe-
cial thanks are extended to the entire MEDSALT group for
the useful discussions and support. Pietro Sternai is grateful
to the Swiss NSF (Ambizione grant PZ00P2_168113/1).
Chiara Amadori
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How to cite this article: Amadori C, Garcia-
Castellanos D, Toscani G, et al. Restored topography
of the Po Plain-Northern Adriatic region during the
Messinian base-level dropImplications for the
physiography and compartmentalization of the
palaeo-Mediterranean basin. Basin Res. 2018;00:
... Here we question the pre-assumed water mass and utilize a different approach; the present-day relief is the reference and we backward model (restore) the topography immediately after the MSC, by isostatically unloading sediments that accumulated since. Similar exercise 15 , conducted for the Po Plain and the north Adriatic Sea, concluded that an 800-900 m drawdown best explains buried erosional features; and the same approach applied for the Western Mediterranean yielded 1100-1500 m drawdown 46 . The advantage in backward modeling is the wellknown current relief and the unloaded sediments mass from seismic and well data. ...
... The challenge is to recognize indicators of the fallen MSC sea-level, including 1) Changes in the slope of the river thalweg as indicators of land-sea transition 45 . 2) Sedimentary facies characterizing continental-to-marine or shelf-to-slope transitions 15,51,52 . 3) Buried scarps of shoreline terraces 10,11,13 . ...
... For decompaction of underlying sediment, we used a regional sediment thickness map 71 , which is >10 km deep in most of the study area. The decompaction results are insensitive to the accuracy of this map, because rocks deeper than~5 km retain nearly negligible porosity 15,72 . The uncertainty related to a range of decompaction parameters (shale, sand, and shaly-sand) are presented in Fig. 5. ...
Full-text available
The extreme Mediterranean sea-level drop during the Messinian salinity crisis has been known for >50 years, but its amplitude and duration remain a challenge. Here we estimate its amplitude by restoring the topography of the Messinian Nile canyon and the vertical position of the Messinian coastline by unloading of post-Messinian sediment and accounting for flexural isostasy and compaction. We estimate the original depth of the geomorphological base level of the Nile River at ~600 m below present sea level, implying a drawdown 2–4 times smaller than previously estimated from the Nile canyon and suggesting that salt precipitated under 1–3 km deep waters. This conclusion is at odds with the nearly-desiccated basin model (>2 km drawdown) dominating the scientific literature for 50 years. Yet, a 600 m drawdown is ca. five times larger than eustatic fluctuations and its impact on the Mediterranean continental margins is incomparable to any glacial sea-level fall.
... A model of a (relatively) full Mediterranean Sea developed (Fig. 1c), where the debate mainly con-cerns the provenance of the hydrological fluxes and the resultant hydrochemical composition of the water mass. In this scenario, the Mediterranean was first, during substage 3.1, transformed into a new gypsum-precipitating basin filled with marine and continent-derived (Roveri et al., , 2019a; 4-Nijar Basin (Fortuin and Krijgsman, 2003); 5-Vera Basin (Fortuin et al., 1995); 6-Bajo Segura Basin (Soria et al., 2005(Soria et al., , 2008a(Soria et al., , 2008b; 7-Mallorca (Mas and Fornós, 2020); 8-Melilla Basin (Rouchy et al., 2003); 9-Boudinar Basin (Merzeraud et al., 2019); 10-Chelif Basin (Rouchy et al., 2007); 11-Sahel area (Frigui et al., 2016); 12-Aléria Basin and 13-Rhône Valley (Carbonnel, 1978); 14-Piedmont Basin (Dela Pierre et al., 2011; 15-Po Plain (Ghielmi et al., 2010(Ghielmi et al., , 2013Amadori et al., 2018); 16-Fine Basin (Cava Serredi section; Carnevale et al., 2006aCarnevale et al., , 2008. 17-21 Apennine system: Romagna sections (17, Roveri et al., 1998), Trave section (18, Iaccarino et al., 2008), Maccarone section (19, Bertini, 2006Sampalmieri et al., 2010;Pellen et al., 2017), Colle di Votta (20)-Fonte dei Pulcini (21)-Stingeti (22) sections (Cosentino et al., 2005(Cosentino et al., , 2012(Cosentino et al., , 2018, Mondragone 1 well (23, Cosentino et al., 2006), Crotone Basin (24, Roveri et al., 2008a);25-27 Sicily: Villafranca Tirrena (25) and Licodia Eubea (26) sections (Sciuto et al., 2018), Caltanissetta Basin (27, Manzi et al., 200928-Corfu (Pierre et al., 2006); 29-Zakinthos (Karakitsios et al., 2017b); 30-Crete ; 31-Cyprus (Rouchy et al., 2001;Manzi et al., 2016a); 32-Adana Basin (Radeff et al., 2016). ...
... To the east, the Messinian sediments in the Piedmont Basin disappear beneath the km-thick Plio-Quaternary succession of the Po Plain-Adriatic Foredeep (PPAF; Fig. 2a). By definition of Ghielmi et al. (2010) and Amadori et al. (2018), the PPAF includes two main elon-gated depocenters enclosed within the northern Apennines to the South and the Southern Alps to the North: the easternmost portion of the Po Plain and the whole presentday northern Adriatic Sea. Here, for simplicity, we include in the definition of PPAF also its westernmost depocenters of the Western Po Plain Foredeep. ...
... Instead, the post-evaporitic deposits consist of large thicknesses (up to 1 km) and volumes of coarse-grained clastics (LM1 and LM2 of Rossi and Rogledi, 1988;ME3 or Fusignano Fm. of Ghielmi et al., 2010;ME4 of Ghielmi et al., 2013;ME3b and possibly ME3a of Rossi et al., 2015a). Several authors (Ghielmi et al., 2010(Ghielmi et al., , 2013Rossi et al., 2015a;Amadori et al., 2018;Cazzini et al., 2020) showed that these post-evaporitic sediments are the infilling of ca. N-S and NW-SE trending, V-shaped valleys (Fig. 5e). ...
Full-text available
The Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC; 5.97– 5.33 Ma) is one of the most controversial geological events that influenced the evolution of the Mediterranean Basin in the late Miocene, leaving behind an immense volume of evaporites known as the Mediterranean Salt Giant (MSG). Today, more than 90% of the MSG evaporitic deposits are located offshore, buried below thick sediments that are Pliocene to Quaternary in age, and have thus been studied mainly by marine seismic reflection imaging. The Balearic Promontory (BP), a prominent topographic high in the Western Mediterranean basin, contains a unique and tectonically poorly deformed MSC record that resembles the evaporitic record of other peri-Mediterranean marginal and intermediate basins. This PhD thesis was performed in the framework of the SaltGiant European Training Network (ETN), a cross-disciplinary project whose objective is to understand the formation of the MSG. The work of the thesis is focused on the MSC deposits of the BP. Multi-disciplinary approach was applied to answer some of the still open questions concerning the MSC event. As a first step, seismic interpretation of a wide seismic reflection dataset in the Western Mediterranean in general and in the BP in particular was performed, with the aim of refining the mapping of the Messinian units covering the area. To restitute the depositional history of the MSC evaporites of the BP, a detailed comparison with the Messinian evaporitic units of the Sicilian Caltanissetta Basin was carried out, in which a discussion on how this history matches the existing 3-stages chrono-stratigraphic ‘consensus model’ is illustrated. The next step consisted in the restoration of the paleo-bathymetry of the BP at the beginning of the MSC, focusing on the relatively less-deformed basin located in the central part of the BP and called the Central Mallorca Depression (CMD). To achieve this restoration, structural interpretation in the CMD area was done where the main post-MSC tectonic-related vertical movements that altered the MSC paleo-bathymetry were identified. Then 2D and pseudo-3D backstripping analysis were applied in collaboration with other colleagues from the SaltGiant project, to restore the paleo- bathymetry. In the final step, the paleo-bathymetry was used to model the deposition of the MSC evaporite volumes observed in the CMD using physics-based models built on strait hydraulic-control theory. The results show that the MSC units of the CMD could constitute an undeformed analog of those outcropping on-land in the Sicilian Caltanissetta Basin. Moderate post-MSC deformation acted along MSC strike-slip corridors in the CMD following the MSC evaporites deposition, thus altering only locally the paleo-bathymetry. A high amplitude xix drawdown (>850m) is required during the halite stage of the MSC. The results rise a series of doubts about the current consensus model, still widely accepted. Doubts concern the synchronous onset of salt at the basin scale, the maximum depth of deposition of the Primary Lower Gypsum (PLG) and the timing of formation of the Resedimented Lower Gypsum (RLG). All the results and discussions hint to the need of revision of the current MSC consensus model, as well as the importance of initiating drillings offshore over the BP area, which would help revealing many of the mysteries still buried with the MSG.
... As circulation of water masses, sediment, and biotope between the subbasins of the Mediterranean Sea strongly depends on these morphological oceanic-gateways, their evolution is of primary importance to understand the morphological and sedimentary evolution of the different basins (e.g. Leever et al., 2010;Flecker et al., 2015;Palcu et al., 2017;Suc et al., 2015;Balázs et al., 2017;Pellen et al., 2017;Amadori et al., 2018;Camerlenghi et al., 2020). This is particulary critical in the case of large relative sea-level variations, such as during the MSC (5.97-5.33 ...
... Understanding the oceanic gateways evolution helps us to understand why different sedimentary environments are observed on either side of the Gargano promontory during the different stages of the Messinian crisis, such as the presence and absence of halite deposition in the Caltanissetta and Po Plain basins respectively, although both basins presented similar water depths (Amadori et al., 2018;Camerlenghi et al., 2020). ...
... Estimates of sea-level drop magnitude at the Mediterranean scale range from 100 to 200 m (Manzi et al., 2018) to 650-900 m (Amadori et al., 2018;Ben-Moshe et al., 2020), 1000 m (Pellen et al., 2019) or 1500 m (Clauzon et al., 1997;Bache et al., 2009;Lofi et al., 2011), according to basin physiography and/or scenario hypotheses. The exact timing of deposition between east and west Mediterranean sub-basins and the presence of shallow vs. deep environments are still a matter of debate (Roveri et al., 2014;Bache et al., 2015;Gorini et al., 2015). ...
Circulation of water masses, sediment, and biotope between the sub-basins of the Mediterranean Sea strongly depends on morphological oceanic gateways. These geological features react to geodynamic reorganisation through volcanism, vertical movements, and/or the segmentation of sedimentary basins. Despite the palaeogeographic relevance of straits and oceanic-gateways, their evolution and impact on sedimentary transports and deposition in the Mediterranean remain in general poorly constrained. The Gargano-Pelagosa gateway is here first recognized as an influential element of the palaeogeographic/environmental evolution of the central-southern Apenninic foredeep and wedge-top domains during the Messinian, as shown by the integration of (i) seismic lines, (ii) well information from the Adriatic Sea, and (iii) a review of both onshore and offshore structural data and Messinian depositional environments. A palinspastic evolution is proposed for the Apennine and south Adriatic foredeeps during the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC: 5.97–5.33 Ma). We highlight the implication of the pre-MSC structural legacy and the development of the Apennine and Dinarid-Albanian chains in 1) the isolation of the Apennine foredeep from the deep central Mediterranean domains at the peak of the MSC; 2) the vertical movements at the Gargano-Pelagosa structure and the Apulian Platform and 3) their implication in the deposition of a chaotic sedimentary body.
... Dela attributed this surface to the Messinian Erosional Surface (MES), traditionally ascribed to either a modest (<200 m; Roveri et al., 2014c) or extreme (several hundreds to thousands of meters; e.g. Clauzon, 1982;Loget et al., 2006;Amadori et al., 2018) base-level fall concomitant with the intra-Messinian tectonic phase (see Roveri et al., 2014a). Towards the basin depocenter, the MES passes into a correlative conformity flooring m-thick chaotic bodies emplaced by various types of gravity flows and including blocks of carbonates and MSC evaporites ranging in size from few meters to hundreds of meters (Dela Pierre et al., 2002. ...
... These data strongly indicate that sedimentation of member A and C mudstones took place in a subaqueous environment exclusively (endorheic lake) or mainly (lagoon connected to the external sources via the Mediterranean) formed by non-marine inputs. If this water body was an endorheic lake, like suggested by Amadori et al. (2018), then the 87 Sr/ 86 Sr value of the Paratethyan ostracod valves must be representative of the 87 Sr/ 86 Sr ratio of the lake water, which is the product of all the river(s) flowing into the lake (e.g. Joordens et al., 2011;Baddouh et al., 2016) after the weathering and erosion of the isotopically-different, catchment-forming lithologies (e.g. ...
... Consequently, the 87 Sr/ 86 Sr ratios from the present-day rivers of Northern Italy do not support the notion that the biota of the CSC inhabited an endorheic lake fed by northern Italian rivers (e.g. Amadori et al., 2018). Instead, 87 Sr/ 86 Sr ratios measured on Stage 3 Piedmont ostracods must be accounted for by mixing of local freshwaters with their relatively high 87 Sr/ 86 Sr signatures with water derived from an external source and carrying Sr 2+ cations with a lower 87 Sr/ 86 Sr ratio (Fig. 7a, c-d). ...
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Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the Mediterranean Basin at the end of the Messinian Salinity Crisis is contentious. One section that records this final phase (Stage 3) is the Pollenzo Section in the Piedmont Basin (NW Italy). Here, we present new stratigraphic, sedimentological, petrographic, micropaleontological (ostracods, calcareous nannofossils, foraminifera, dinoflagellates) and geochemical (⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr ratios) data from the Cassano Spinola Conglomerates (CSC) and interpret the paleoenvironment of this northernmost tip of the Mediterranean Basin. The CSC comprise three depositional units: members A and C, which were deposited subaqueously, and the intervening member B, which is continental. The CSC is topped by a ~ 50 cm-thick black layer, which is directly overlain by the open marine Argille Azzurre Formation of early Zanclean age. Our investigation reveals that member A is largely barren of autochtonous microfossils, except for an almost monospecific ostracod assemblage of Cyprideis torosa at the top, which indicates shallow-water (<30 m) conditions. Paratethyan ostracods and, possibly, taxa of calcareous nannofossils adapted to low-salinity water first occur in member C. ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr ratios measured on ostracod valves from the member A/B transition (0.708871–0.708870) and member C (0.708834–0.708746) are lower than the coeval Messinian seawater values (~0.709024) and the ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr ratios of a hypothetical lake filling Piedmont (>0.7090) estimated by means of the present-day ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr signature of the Po river, the main drainage system of Northern Italy that receives the weathering products (including ions) of the Alps and Apennines. These values are likely to reflect the mixing of local high ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr river water with low ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr from the Mediterranean, which at the time was dominated by inputs from Eastern Paratethys, circum-Mediterranean rivers and Atlantic Ocean. Our results suggest that, at times during the final stage of the Messinian Salinity Crisis, the Piedmont Basin was hydrologically connected with the main Mediterranean Basin. At regional scale, this implies that the water level in the Mediterranean Basin was relatively high.
... Traditionally, HEIDA et al. this technique has been used to constrain the vertical motions related to tectonic loading by thrusting or extension, provided the availability of precise paleobathymetric measures. However, in areas where tectonic loading is negligible, it can a priori be inverted to constrain paleobathymetry (Amadori et al., 2018). The technique has been applied to constrain the original depth of the Messinian units and erosional surfaces in wells and along sections in the Gulf of Lions (Ryan, 1976), the Tertiary Piedmont Basin (Amadori et al., 2018), the Balearic Promontory (Mas et al., 2018), and in the Ebro delta (Urgeles et al., 2011). ...
... However, in areas where tectonic loading is negligible, it can a priori be inverted to constrain paleobathymetry (Amadori et al., 2018). The technique has been applied to constrain the original depth of the Messinian units and erosional surfaces in wells and along sections in the Gulf of Lions (Ryan, 1976), the Tertiary Piedmont Basin (Amadori et al., 2018), the Balearic Promontory (Mas et al., 2018), and in the Ebro delta (Urgeles et al., 2011). This has led to drawdown estimates in the Western Mediterranean of 1,300 m of late-Messinian water level drop based on terrace formation in a fluvial erosion network (Urgeles et al., 2011) and a minimum of 800 m drawdown to facilitate faunal colonisation of the Balearic Islands (Mas et al., 2018). ...
... Except for Amadori et al. (2018), the aforementioned studies have been based on either local isostasy or 1D (cross-section) flexural isostasy. Although a 2D (planform or pseudo-3D) technique was used by Govers (2009) and Govers et al. (2009), these studies were not designed to reconstruct the pre-MSC bathymetry nor reconstruct the shoreline positions. ...
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During the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC, 5.97-5.33 Ma), thick evaporites were deposited in the Mediterranean Sea associated with major margin erosion. This has been interpreted by most authors as resulting from water level drop by evaporation but its timing, amplitude and variations between subbasins are poorly constrained due to uncertainty in post-Messinian vertical motions and lack of a clear time-correlation between the marginal basin and offshore records. The Balearic Promontory and surrounding basins exemplify a range of responses to this event, from margin erosion to up to a kilometer thick Messinian units in the abyssal areas containing the majority of the MSC halite. The Balearic Promontory contains unique patches of halite with thickness up to 325 m at intermediate depths that provide valuable information on water level during the stage of halite deposition. We compile seismic markers potentially indicating ancient shorelines during the drawdown phase: the first is marked by the transition from the MES to UU based on seismic data. The second is the limit between the Bottom Erosion Surface and abyssal halite deposits. We restore these shorelines to their original depth accounting for flexural isostasy and sediment compaction. The best fitting scenario involves a water level drop of ca. 1100± 100 m for the Upper Unit level and 1500±100 m for the Bottom Erosion Surface level. According to our results, halite deposition began in the Central Mallorca Depression at 1300-1500 m depth, perched hundreds of meters above the deep basins, which were at 1500-1800 m (Valencia Basin) and >2900 m (Algerian Basin). The hypothesis that erosion surfaces were formed subaerially during the drawdown phase is consistent with a model of halite deposition before/during the water level drop of at least 1000 m, followed by the deposition of the Upper Unit until the MSC is terminated by reinstatement of normal marine conditions.
... At the end of the Miocene, during the Messinian Salinity Crisis of the Mediterranean Sea, a complex interplay between the sea level drop, estimated in 800-900 m (Amadori et al., 2018), and compressional tectonics, produced the subaerial exposure of the northern Adriatic, favouring erosional processes (Fantoni et al., 2002;Ghielmi et al., 2013). The Messinian erosion was followed by the marine transgression with deposition of Pliocene marine sediments (Fantoni et al., 2002). ...
The analysis of multichannel seismic profiles and their correlation with well data in the northern Adriatic Sea (Northern Italy) has allowed to document Plio-Quaternary episodes of tectonic subsidence and uplift. They affected the sedimentation above the Mesozoic to lower Eocene Friuli-Dinaric Carbonate Platform (FDCP) and the unit composed of the Eocene Trieste Flysch and the Miocene Molassa (TFM), as well as the sedimentary succession lying SW of the FDCP. In particular, the early Zanclean reflooding that postdated the Messinian Salinity Crisis, was followed by the SW-ward progradation of a highstand to forced regressive shelf-slope system (Sequence 1). Forced regression was controlled by a main episode of tectonic uplift that occurred at the end of the Zanclean. This tectonic event also led to the formation of the sequence boundary separating the two main sequences that compose the Plio-Quaternary succession. The lower part of Sequence 2 (Piacenzian to late Pleistocene) recorded a two-step subsidence phase, which led to drowning episodes during Piacenzian and in particular late Gelasian (transgressive systems tract of Sequence 2). They were associated with the partial flooding of the TFM and the Miocene deposits overlying the FDPC, and with a downward bending of the pre-Calabrian succession toward the Apennine chain. The accommodation created during the late Gelasian drowning event was filled in part by an Alpine-sourced, SW-ward prograding system, and in part by the NE-ward paleo-Po prograding system (highstand systems tract of Sequence 2). The most recent part of Sequence 2 documents the last glacio-eustatic cycles in a physiographic context characterized by a very low gradient.
... TISC has been successfully applied to different geological settings such as: the evolution of the Paleotethys sedimentary basins during the Messinian Salinity Crisis (Bartol et al., 2012), the drainage evolution of the Ebro Cenozoic basin ( Figure 7C; Garcia-Castellanos et al., 2003), the evolution drainage of the Rio Grande extensional Basin and the East African Rifts (Berry et al., 2019), and the evolution of foreland basins during Frontiers in Earth Science | April 2022 | Volume 10 | Article 828005 tectonic collision (Garcia-Castellanos, 2002;Amadori et al., 2018). ...
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The immense advances in computer power achieved in the last decades have had a significant impact in Earth science, providing valuable research outputs that allow the simulation of complex natural processes and systems, and generating improved forecasts. The development and implementation of innovative geoscientific software is currently evolving towards a sustainable and efficient development by integrating models of different aspects of the Earth system. This will set the foundation for a future digital twin of the Earth. The codification and update of this software require great effort from research groups and therefore, it needs to be preserved for its reuse by future generations of geoscientists. Here, we report on Geo-Soft-CoRe, a Geoscientific Software & Code Repository, hosted at the archive DIGITAL.CSIC. This is an open source, multidisciplinary and multiscale collection of software and code developed to analyze different aspects of the Earth system, encompassing tools to: 1) analyze climate variability; 2) assess hazards, and 3) characterize the structure and dynamics of the solid Earth. Due to the broad range of applications of these software packages, this collection is useful not only for basic research in Earth science, but also for applied research and educational purposes, reducing the gap between the geosciences and the society. By providing each software and code with a permanent identifier (DOI), we ensure its self-sustainability and accomplish the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) principles. Therefore, we aim for a more transparent science, transferring knowledge in an easier way to the geoscience community, and encouraging an integrated use of computational infrastructure. Systematic Review Registration : .
... At the end of the Miocene, a complex interplay between the sea level drop estimated in 800-900 m due to the Messinian Salinity Crisis of the Mediterranean Sea [50], and compressional tectonics produced the subaerial exposure of the area, with the development of a drainage system that produced several kilometres-long and several hundred meter deep canyons [46,47,51,52]. ...
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The increasing demand for freshwater requires the identification of additional and less-conventional water resources. Amongst these, offshore freshwater systems have been investigated in different parts of the world to provide new opportunities to face increasing water requests. Here we focus on the north-eastern Adriatic Sea, where offshore aquifers could be present as a continuation of onshore ones. Geophysical data, in particular offshore seismic data, and onshore and offshore well data, are interpreted and integrated to characterise the hydrogeological setting via the interpretation of seismo-stratigraphic sequences. We focus our attention on two areas located in the proximity of the Tagliamento and Isonzo deltas. Well and seismic data indicate that the Quaternary sediments, that extend from onshore to offshore areas, are the most promising from an offshore freshwater resources point of view, while the several kilometres thick pre-Quaternary carbonate and terrigenous sequences likely host mainly salty waters.
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Over the last decade, there has been a resurgence of interest in the climatic and tectonic mechanisms that drove the Messinian salinity crisis (MSC) and the associated deposition of thick evaporites. The MSC represents an unprecedented palaeoceanographic change that led to a very short (c. 640 kyr) ecological and environmental crisis. However, across the Levantine offshore basin, the sedimentological nature of the top evaporitic units and the mechanisms that controlled the transition from a hypersaline evaporitic unit to brackish deposits (final MSC stage 3) are still disputed. Here, we re‐evaluate the deposits associated with the terminal phase of the MSC, named in offshore Lebanon as the Nahr Menashe Unit (NMU). We describe the NMU seismic facies, characterize and map its internal seismic stratigraphy, and provide a new interpretation of its depositional environment, which persisted during the late Messinian and then evolved through a regional reflooding event. The base of the NMU overlies semi‐circular depressions, randomly distributed linear marks and surface collapse features, which are indicative of a period of intense evaporite dissolution. The NMU seismic facies observed from the slope to the deep part of the basin support the interpretation of a layered salt‐evaporite‐sand depositional system subject to complex reworking, dissolution, deposition, and final erosion. A drainage network of valleys and complex tributary channels incising into the top NMU shows marked erosional characteristics, which indicate a dominant southwards sediment transfer following deposition of the NMU.. The drainage network was subsequently infilled by layered sediments interpreted here to represent the post‐MSC marine sediments. Our analysis adds important details regarding previous interpretations of the NMU as fluvial in origin. Specifically, the presence of sub‐circular, linear dissolution features coupled with mound‐like features indicates that the NMU is composed dominantly of evaporites that were subject to dissolution prior to erosion associated with the drainage network . The NMU is interpreted to represent deposition/redeposition of a mixed evaporite‐siliciclastic succession in a shallow marine or lacustrine environment during the tilting of the offshore Lebanese basin.
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The Messinian salinity crisis (MSC) - the most abrupt, global-scale environmental change since the end of the Cretaceous - is widely associated with partial desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea. A major open question is the way normal marine conditions were abruptly restored at the end of the MSC. Here we use geological and geophysical data to identify an extensive, buried and chaotic sedimentary body deposited in the western Ionian Basin after the massive Messinian salts and before the Plio-Quaternary open-marine sedimentary sequence. We show that this body is consistent with the passage of a megaflood from the western to the eastern Mediterranean Sea via a south-eastern Sicilian gateway. Our findings provide evidence for a large amplitude drawdown in the Ionian Basin during the MSC, support the scenario of a Mediterranean-wide catastrophic flood at the end of the MSC, and suggest that the identified sedimentary body is the largest known megaflood deposit on Earth.
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Between 5 and 6 million years ago, during the so-called Messinian salinity crisis, the Mediterranean basin became a giant salt repository. The possibility of abrupt and kilometre-scale sea-level changes during this extreme event is debated. Messinian evaporites could signify either deep- or shallow-marine deposits, and ubiquitous erosional surfaces could indicate either subaerial or submarine features. Significant and fast reductions in sea level unload the lithosphere, which can increase the production and eruption of magma. Here we calculate variations in surface load associated with the Messinian salinity crisis and compile the available time constraints for pan-Mediterranean magmatism. We show that scenarios involving a kilometre-scale drawdown of sea level imply a phase of net overall lithospheric unloading at a time that appears synchronous with a magmatic pulse from the pan-Mediterranean igneous provinces. We verify the viability of a mechanistic link between unloading and magmatism using numerical modelling of decompression partial mantle melting and dyke formation in response to surface load variations. We conclude that the Mediterranean magmatic record provides an independent validation of the controversial kilometre-scale evaporative drawdown and sheds new light on the sensitivity of magmatic systems to the surface forcing.
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Did the Mediterranean ever become a desert during Messinian or was it a huge hyperhaline water body? According to Selli, the introduction of the concept and name of the Messinian Salinity Crisis in 1954, the second hypothesis was correct, but he did not succeed in preventing the rapid growth of popularity of the first hypothesis, triggered by the DSD Mediterranean campaign during the 1970s. The ensuing desiccation theory became popular enough to be included in elementary text books. The controversy has been revived in the new millennium and much former proof of the theory is now in doubt. The Mediterranean was not totally isolated, but often supplied with normal marine water. Instead of km-deep drawdown, shallower-to-absent level drop is favoured. Exposed canyons at the mouth of major Mediterranean rivers have turned into submarine channels filled by clastic sulphates. The mega-catastrophic potential of the desiccation theory has turned out to be less worrying. Perhaps the text books of our grandchildren should be updated. Within the frame of new evidence regarding normal water supply, even from the Indian Ocean, are discussed, based on two new palinspastic Messinian maps. However, reduced sharpness in the controversy and increasing consensus reached among specialists depend on ongoing inferred correlations between on-land and deep-marine Messinian evaporites. Only drilling across the whole, deep Mediterranean evaporite sequences can back-up the reliability of the correlation and validity of these new views. © 2016 Tohoku University, Mathematical Institute. All rights reserved.
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The triggers and drivers for salt-related deformation on continental margins are intensely debated, reflecting uncertainties regarding the diagnostic value of certain structural styles, in addition to the fundamental mechanics associated with the two principal mechanisms (gliding and spreading). Determining the triggers and drivers for salt-related deformation is important because they provide insights into continent-scale geodynamic processes, the regional kinematics of gravity-driven deformation, and sediment dispersal and hydrocarbon prospectivity. The processes associated with and timing of deformation of Messinian salt in the offshore eastern Mediterranean are uncertain, thus is our understanding of the geodynamic evolution of this tectonically complex region. We here use an extensive 2D and 3D seismic reflection dataset to test models for the salt-tectonic development of Messinian salt. We contend that gliding and spreading were not mutually exclusive, but likely overlapped through time and space, showing a close relationship local and far-field tectonics (gliding), as well as differential overburden loading (spreading). We also argue that intrasalt strain and seismic-stratigraphic patterns can be explained by a model invoking a single, post-Messinian period of salt-related deformation, rather than a more complex model involving two separate, non-coaxial deformation events occurring during and after salt deposition.
A new type of submarine unconformity is identified in actively deforming basins, referred to as a hinged-margin drowning unconformity, recording high accommodation-high supply conditions on tilted clastic shelves characterized by a scalloped morphology. In contrast to drowning unconformities occurring in carbonates, and to transgressive surfaces onlapped by healing phase wedges, such discontinuities are tied to angular unconformities developed during tectonically generated relative sea-level rise. They also involve regional tilting and morphostructural reorganization. Three types of hinged-margin drowning unconformities are recognized, linked to specific structural styles. Such unconformities are recorded by networks of deep water incisions, 30-350 m deep and 50-7500 m wide, leaving remnants of a drowned shelf unconformably overlain by deeper-water facies. The unconformity passes laterally into a paraconformity of regional extent with stratigraphic lacunae ranging from some hundreds of thousands of years to a few million years. The above-grade slope created by tectonic tilting provides instability and huge sediment remobilization, testified by sedimentation rates > 1m/k.y. in the depocenters. Changes in the paleowater depth reach up to 1 km, greater than is common in the classical sequence stratigraphy paradigm. The sediments removed from drowned and ravined deltas feed intra-shelf, intra-slope, and basin-floor turbidites during the regional transgression driven by increasing but laterally changing accommodation on hinged shelves. These new concepts are of great importance not only to interpret the accommodation succession and predict sediment delivery to deep water, but also for the inverse problem of reconstructing the timing of deformation.
In the last fifty years, the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC) has been widely investigated in the Mediterranean Sea, but a major basin remains fewly explored in terms of MSC thematic: the Western Tyrrhenian Basin. The rifting of this back-arc basin is considered to occur between the Middle-Miocene and the Early-Pliocene, thus including the MSC, giving a unique opportunity to study the crisis in a context of active geodynamics. However the MSC seismic markers in the Western part of the Tyrrhenian Sea have only been investigated in the early eighties and the MSC event in the Western Tyrrhenian Basin remains poorly studied and unclear. In this study, we revisit the MSC in the Western Tyrrhenian Basin, i.e. along the Eastern Sardinian margin. We present results from the interpretation of a 2400 km long HR seismic-reflection dataset, acquired along the margin during the “METYSS” research cruises in 2009 and 2011. The maps of the MSC seismic markers reveal that the Eastern Sardinian margin was already dissected in structurals highs and lows during the MSC. We also demonstrate that the MSC markers constitute powerfull time-markers to refine the age of the rifting, which ended earlier than expected in the East-Sardinian Basin and the Cornaglia Terrace. These results allow us to discuss the palaeo water-depth of the Western Tyrrhenian Basin during the MSC, as well as implications for possibles scenarios of the Messinian Salinity Crisis across the Eastern Sardinian margin.
Sediments deposited after the peak of the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC) in the Apennine foredeep of Italy embody a topic debated on both chronostratigraphic and palaeoenvironmental grounds. We performed micropalaeontological (calcareous nannofossil and dinoflagellate cyst) analyses on four stratigraphic sections (Monticino, Civitella del Tronto, Fonte dei Pulcini, Fonte la Casa) and reused those previously published from Maccarone. All sections belong to the p-ev2 Fm. that includes the Colombacci deposits, usually considered emblematic of the Lago Mare in the area. Marine microfossils recorded in previous studies have often been neglected or considered reworked and hence discarded. We propose the occurrence of at least four marine inflows between 5.36 and 5.33 Ma, the first of which is reflected in the Apennine foredeep by marine dinoflagellates that are then replaced by Paratethyan (brackish) ones. Paratethyan species occupied favourable environments during intervals separating marine inflows while the marine species survived elsewhere. From this perspective, the Apennine foredeep was an isolated perched basin during most of the peak of the MSC (5.60–5.36 Ma), and was progressively and repeatedly invaded by marine waters overflowing a palaeo-sill before the beginning of the Zanclean (5.33 Ma) which itself reflects a continuing eustatic rise. The Gargano Peninsula and, offshore, the present-day Pelagosa sill may be regarded as the remnants of this Messinian sill. This interpretation provides new possibilities for ecostratigraphically correlating the sections with Lago Mare biofacies, the deposition of which unquestionably started prior to the deposition of Colombacci sediments and continued into the earliest Zanclean. The results of this study show that the Lago Mare facies cannot be restricted to a single brackish palaeoenvironment but included competing marine and brackish waters controlled by geographic and chronological factors. Deposits overlying the unconformity separating the regional p-ev1 and p-ev2 formations are considered to represent the first marine incursion into the Apennine foredeep. These results allow us to refine the palaeogeographic reconstruction of the Apennine foredeep during the peak of the MSC. Although this basin was deep, its history during the peak of the MSC did not parallel that of the central Mediterranean basins.
The Northern Adriatic Sea is a shallow and very flat shelf area located between the northern Apennines, the southern Alps and the Dinarides; its present day physiography is the result of the filling of a relatively deep Quaternary foredeep basin, developed due to the northeastward migration of the Apennine chain. Multichannel seismic profiles and well data have allowed documenting the stratigraphic architecture, the depositional systems and the physiographic evolution of the Northern Adriatic sea since early Pliocene time. In particular, three main depositional sequences bounded by regional unconformities were recognized. The Zanclean Sequence 1 documents first the drowning of late Messinian incised valleys and then the southward progradation of a shelf-slope system, which is inferred to be related to a tectonic phase of the Apenninic front. The Piacenzian-Gelasian Sequence 2 records a relatively rapid transgressive episode followed by minor southward progradation; the top of the sequence is associated with a major late Gelasian drowning event, linked to the NE-ward migration of the Apennine foredeep. The Calabrian to upper Pleistocene Sequence 3 testifies the infilling of accommodation previously created by the late Gelasian drowning event, and it initially accumulated in deep-water settings and then in shallow-water to continental settings. The upper part of Sequence 3, consisting of the paleo-Po deltaic system, is composed of seven high-frequency sequences inferred to record late Quaternary glacio-eustatic changes. These high-frequency sequences document the stepwise filling of the remaining accommodation, resulting in the development of the modern shelf.