The evolution of the westernmost Mediterranean basins.

Gomez de la Pena, Laura , Ranero, César R., Gràcia, Eulàlia and Booth-Rea, Guillermo (2021) The evolution of the westernmost Mediterranean basins. Open Access Earth-Science Reviews, 214 . Art.Nr. 103445. DOI 10.1016/j.earscirev.2020.103445.

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Supplementary data:



• We present the first unified stratigraphy of the westernmost Mediterranean.
• Miocene marine basins currently onshore are integrated.
• We present a kinematic model for the Alboran and Algero-Balearic basins.
• We evaluate western Mediterranean geodynamic models in the framework of basin evolution.


Based on more than 4500 km of new and re-processed multichannel seismic lines, high-resolution seafloor bathymetry, available well data, and basement dredge samples, we have re-evaluated the entire stratigraphy and the tectonic evolution of the Alboran and western Algerian basins. We have correlated the sediment units deposited since the beginning of the formation of the different sub-basins, and we present for the first time a coherent stratigraphy and large-scale tectonic evolution of the whole region. The results provide the information to test and refine models of the geodynamic evolution of the westernmost Mediterranean.

The data analysis supports an independent evolution of the sub-basins through the latemost Oligocene and Miocene, and a common Plio-Holocene evolution. The latemost Oligocene and Miocene evolution was controlled by the evolution of the Gibraltar subduction system. The oldest sedimentary unit is restricted to the West Alboran and Malaga basins depocenter that during the latemost Oligocene and early Miocene connected to some smaller marine basins currently uplifted and located onshore on the Betics range. Later, during the middle Miocene, the Habibas and Pytheas sub-basins formed a second depocenter on the North African margin. The different sedimentary units found in both depocenters, together with their different deformation patterns, support that the West Alboran-Malaga and the Habibas-Pytheas depocenters were separated by a major tectonic boundary. The early Tortonian initial arc magmatic activity produced the formation of new areas floored by a volcanic basement by the end of the late Tortonian, when the first sedimentary units deposited in the East Alboran sub-basin, and probably during the late Tortonian-early Messinian in the South Alboran sub-basin. Extension of the back-arc setting created oceanic crust flooring the Algero Balearic Basin. The extensional formation of the westernmost Mediterranean basins ended in the latemost Miocene. The western migration of the subduction system stopped and the convergence between the African and the European tectonic plates started to dominate the tectonic evolution of the region. During the Plio-Holocene, the sub-basins did not further subside individually so that these sediments have spread out across the whole Alboran Basin. A new tectonic contractional and strike-slip fault system developed that is active nowadays.

The integration of our results together with the most recent tomographic studies has been used to test and refine the existing kinematic models of the area. None of the existing models explains all our large-scale observations.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Westernmost Mediterranean, Alboran Basin, Algero-Balearic Basin, Basin evolution, Stratigraphy, Geodynamic evolution
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-GDY Marine Geodynamics
Main POF Topic: PT3: Restless Earth
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
Publisher: Elsevier
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2021 08:18
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2023 09:38

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