ABSTRACT

Two episodes of lacustrine sedimentation, separated by an erosional surface and fluvial sedimentation, took place in the southern part of the broken foreland Vinchina basin (NW Argentina) between 11 and 5 Ma. The lacustrine deposits, 768 and 740 meters thick, are recorded in the upper part of the Vinchina Formation (“Vinchina lake”) and the lower part of the Toro Formation (“Toro Negro lake”) respectively. According to sedimentological features, four sedimentary facies associations (FAs) are recognized in the lacustrine deposits: 1) thinly laminated mudstones facies association (FA 1), 2) coarsening- and thickening-upward muddy to sandy cycles (FA 2), 3) medium- to coarse-grained sandstones (FA 3), and 4) mudstones, sandstones, and oolitic limestones (FA 4). Altogether, these facies correspond to ephemeral, shallow, lacustrine systems including saline mudflats. The total thickness of each lacustrine interval, the thickness of the individual cycles and their lithology, and the overall aggradational facies arrangement suggest that both lakes developed during underfilled stages of the basin. The coarsening-upward cycles can be regarded as lacustrine parasequences representing cyclic episodes of expansion and contraction of the lake, but unlike marine parasequences these cycles do not correlate to water depth. The development of lacustrine conditions and continuous base-level rise, together with the coeval southward-directed paleoflow indicators, suggest axial drainages and that the basin was externally closed (endorheic) at that time. The large thicknesses of each lacustrine interval also points to high accommodation in the southern part of the Vinchina basin during these times. Lake filling cycles are one order of magnitude thicker than lake depth, so we postulate that subsidence (tectonic) and rise of the spill point (geomorphology) increased accommodation but not water depth. Thus, unlike marine parasequences, the analyzed coarsening-upward cycles do not correlate to water depth, but rather they are controlled by more complex basinal accommodation processes. We hypothesize that the coeval uplift of the Umango and Espinal basement block to the south, coupled with the initial doming of the Sierra de Los Colorados to the east, may have generated the damming of the southward-directed drainage and a zone of maximum accommodation, then controlling the location of the two lakes and the preservation of their thick sedimentary records. Therefore, localized accommodation was enhanced by a combination of tectonic subsidence and topographic growth. The two lacustrine intervals and the intervening fluvial deposits record changing contributions from axial to transverse drainages and different cycles of closed and open conditions in the basin. A low-frequency, closed to open and back to closed (axial to transverse and return to axial drainage) basin evolution, is envisaged by the development of the two lakes (closed stages) and the erosional surface followed by the interval of fluvial sedimentation that separates them (open stage). In addition, several high-frequency lake fluctuations (expansion–contraction) are represented by the coarsening-upward cycles within each lacustrine interval. The thick lacustrine intervals and their intermediate incision surfaces record cyclic filling and re-excavation stages and localized episodes of increased subsidence in the Vinchina basin, which seem to be a common feature of tectonically active broken foreland basins.

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