Abstract

This paper presents a combined study based on seismic interpretation, sequence stratigraphy, and the evaluation of subsidence that aims to characterize the structure and development of the Essaouira Basin in Morocco. Located in the coastal Meseta adjoining the continental margin, this basin records an initial Carnian-Hettangian deformation phase during rifting in the central part of the North Atlantic region. The geometry of the basin as a function of time shows a succession of half-grabens and horsts that developed westwards from reactivated Hercynian structures. The postrift stage is characterized by an aggrading sedimentary sequence, as shown by concordant seismic sequences stacking over the onshore part of the basin. The Upper Cretaceous coincides with a sequence showing a transition towards a prograding regime that leads to the topography of the present-day margin. Using the high-resolution analysis provided by sequence stratigraphy, it is possible to recognize fine-scale stratigraphic variations in the sedimentary succession. The well-to-well correlation of sedimentary cycles forms a dataset for evaluating subsidence. Residual subsidence curves reveal a differential behaviour between the present onshore and offshore areas. Although the computed subsidence rates are low across the onshore zone, curves for the western offshore part of the basin follow theoretical lithospheric cooling curves that are compatible with a stretch factor ( beta ) of nearly 1.4. Steep temporary gradients on the computed curves may be correlated with tectonic phases documented across the North Atlantic region that exerted a tight control on the development of the Essaouira Basin from Triassic rifting until the uplift of the Atlas Mountains during the Cenozoic.

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