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Middle Triassic to Lower Jurassic continental conglomerate, sandstone, and mudrock are widely exposed in the highest tectonostratigraphic terranes (internal domains) of western and central circum-Mediterranean orogenic belts. These red beds are a key tectonic facies assemblage representing onset of the Tethyan rift-valley stage in the western Mediterranean, during which plate and microplate boundaries were localized during breakup of Pangea. These red beds likely define the boundary of the Mesomediterranean microplate, which played a key role in the Cenozoic evolution of the western Mediterranean. Red beds unconformably overlie Paleozoic metasedimentary and locally plutonic rocks, and they are covered by Early Jurassic and younger sedimentary strata; they are generally mildly deformed and only locally metamorphosed.

Sandstone detrital modes vary from quartzarenite to quartzolithic, reflecting a provenance from Cambrian–Carboniferous metasedimentary rocks similar to those underlying the red beds. Reevaluation of previously published petrographic databases and detailed hot-cathodoluminescence (H-CL) analysis of quartz grains indicate that most quartz grains were derived from heterogeneous metamorphic, plutonic, and volcanic rocks. Evaluation of the diagenetic evolution of red beds using chemical-mineralogical analyses and H-CL analyses indicates that compaction and cementation played key roles. Compaction consists of brittle deformation, with breakage of quartz grains and production of early quartz cement, which closed the fractures, followed by a second stage of quartz cementation. Carbonate cements consist of dolomite, ankerite, and calcite. This last cement, related to dedolomitization/calcitization processes, produced carbonate crystals with iron oxides. The sandstone experienced intense reduction of intergranular volume during early stages of burial, as indicated by contrasting compactional porosity loss (COPL; mean of 31.1%) versus cementational porosity loss (CEPL; mean of 8.5%). These data demonstrate the minor role of cementation in reducing porosity and the prevalence of compaction as the main process destroying primary pores. The diagenesis of the analyzed red beds is variable within several internal domains of the orogenic belts, suggesting local influences related to the provenance and geotectonic evolution of each basin.

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