Abstract

The integration of field and subsurface data permits a substantial revision of the sedimentary evolution of the Vena del Gesso basin, a thrust-top basin in the Northern Apennines where shallow-water primary gypsum deposits related to the Messinian salinity crisis were well developed and preserved. As inferred from lateral and vertical facies changes within the underlying deep-marine turbidites of the Marnoso-arenacea Formation, evaporite precipitation occurred in a basin bounded to the north and to the east by a thrust-related anticline actively growing since the late Tortonian. Both gypsum deposition and subsequent deformation were strongly controlled by evolving paleobathymetry driven by tectonics. Primary gypsum precipitated in a shallow, silled basin, while in the adjacent deeper and larger foredeep basin, organic-rich shales were deposited. Gypsum deposits underwent severe postdepositional deformation related to large-scale gravitational collapse, as a result of a regional uplift event, also coincident with the end of the evaporitic phase. Along the inner, shallower-dipping limb of the anticline bounding the basin, large-scale, poorly deformed gypsum slabs moved downslope along a detachment surface developed at the contact with the underlying euxinic shales, forming both extensional and compressional features and showing an overall southwestern vergence. The identification of a south-southwest–dipping paleoslope, here pointed out for the first time, suggests that the deformational features affecting the gypsum unit were probably driven by gravity and not by active thrusting, as thought up to now. The steeper frontal limb of the anticline promoted the transformation of gypsum slides into debris flows and turbidite currents that deposited their load in the adjacent deeper basin. This gravitational deformation was sealed by postevaporitic upper Messinian Lagomare deposits. The sedimentary history of the Vena del Gesso basin suggests that the Messinian salinity crisis in the Apennine foredeep, as well as in the Balearic, Tyrrhenian, Sicily, and Eastern Mediterranean Basins, was tightly linked to tectonic processes. The large-scale, postdepositional collapse of primary evaporitic deposits is a widespread feature in the Mediterranean basins, and it may have altered the original stratigraphic relationships in some places. This finding has potentially important implications for a correct paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the onset of the Messinian salinity crisis.

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