Abstract

The Messinian salinity crisis (MSC) is characterized by gigantic erosion that remodels the margins while a thick, essentially evaporitic and detrital, sedimentary sequence forms in the deep basins. Based on recent (MAURESC, 2003) and earlier (MESEA 1, 1990; MAGIRAA, 1996; GEOBREST, 2002) seismic reflection data, this work brings to light the record of the MSC on the Provençal margin, which has until now been rarely explored from this perspective. Beyond its strictly regional interest, this study fits into a larger synthesis of MSC seismic markers in the Mediterranean and Black Sea marine domain [Lofi et al., 2011] and employs the new nomenclature established on this occasion. The results obtained reveal a Messinian detrital body (CU unit) of 625 metres maximum thickness at the foot of the margin, accumulating at the mouths of the principal canyons. Its form, facies and extension assimilate it to clastic fans, fed by subaerial erosion linked to the MSC. The relative geometry of CU and the Messinian units MU and UU deposited in the deep basin give indications to their chronostratigraphic relations. The deposition of the CU unit is posterior to the basal part of the mobile unit consisting of halite (MU), but contemporary to its top. These results agree with the recent scenarii, which propose that the precipitation of MU in the basin began early, during the lowering of the sea level, and ended at a low level during the MSC [Blanc, 2000; Martin et al., 2001; Sage et al., 2005; Ryan, 2009]. The UU unit surmounts MU and is subdivided into two sub-units with perceptibly different seismic facies : UU1 at the base and UU2 at the summit. UU1 could correspond to a unit containing more halite and/or more clastic material than UU2. The UU1 sub-unit could be partially contemporary to the CU unit. Concerning salt tectonics and its markers, three structural provinces have been evidenced in the sector of study, respectively : an upslope domain in extension (normal faults), an intermediary domain in translation (tabular MU) and a downslope domain in contraction (salt diapirs). These domains are directly linked to the gravity spreading and/or gliding of the brittle sedimentary cover formed by the CU, UU and Plio-Quatenary units and of the mobile level, MU. In the study area, a close relation between the distribution and thickness of CU and salt tectonics has additionally been evidenced at the mouths of the large Messinian canyons, being best expressed where CU is thick.

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