The Westernmost Tethys Blog Geology mapping, basin analysis and 3D modeling


A Python Application for Visualizing the 3D Stratigraphic Architecture

A Python application for visualizing the 3D stratigraphic architecture of porous sedimentary media has been developed. The application uses the parameter granulometry deduced from borehole lithological records to create interactive 3D HTML models of essential stratigraphic elements.

The 3D distribution of the granulometry classes along the Z axis in each of the 433 compiled boreholes in the LRD. The plotting adopted a 1:1:50 (x = 2, y = 2 and z = 0.5) aspect ratio for better display. The color assigned to each granulometry class is cyan for gravel, yellow for coarse sand, gray for silt–clay, and red for the basement.

On the basis of the high density of boreholes and the subsequent geological knowledge gained during the last six decades, the Quaternary onshore Llobregat River Delta in northeastern Spain was selected to show the application. The public granulometry dataset produced by the Water Authority of Catalonia from 433 boreholes in this strategic coastal groundwater body was clustered into the clay–silt, coarse sand, and gravel classes. Three interactive 3D HTML models were created. The first shows the location of the boreholes granulometry. The second includes the main gravel and coarse sand sedimentary bodies (lithosomes) associated with the identified three stratigraphic intervals, called lower (>50 m b.s.l.) in the distal Llobregat Delta sector, middle (20–50 m b.s.l.) in the central Llobregat, and upper (<20mb.s.l.) spread over the entire Llobregat. The third deals with the basement (Pliocene and older rocks) top surface, which shows an overall steeped shape deepening toward the marine platform and local horsts, probably due to faulting. The modeled stratigraphic elements match well with the sedimentary structures reported in recent scientific publications.

This proves the good performance of this incipient Python application for visualizing the 3D stratigraphic architecture, which is a crucial stage for groundwater management and governance.

Cite as: Bullejos, M., Cabezas, D., Martín-Martín, M., Alcalá, F.J., 2022. A Python Application for Visualizing the 3D Stratigraphic Architecture of the Onshore Llobregat River Delta in NE Spain. Water .


Field work in the Eocene Prebetic II

Filed under: basin analysis,PID2020-114381GB-I00,Team — Tags: , , — messinianalicante @ 8:01 AM

The rain in Spain…

Well the second field work campaign in the Eocene Prebetic was conditional by the bad weather, rain, wind, snow and cold.

The picture shows the members of the team imply in this field try to the Eocene rocks within the provinces of Alicante and Murcia.

From left to right: Jose Enrique Tent-Manclus, Josep Tosquella, Crina Miclaus and Manuel Martin Martin in Santiago de la Espada.

This is the second  field season of the project of the  Spanish research agency (Agencia Estatal de Investigación) of the Spanish Science and innovation minister (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación)  entitle as “EVOLUCION TECTONO-DEPOSICIONAL DE CUENCAS SEDIMENTARIAS CENOZOICAS: CARACTERIZACION 2D-3D Y MEJORA DE PATRONES ESTANDAR” (PID2020-114381GB-I00). See previous post.


Sierra Espuña Malaguide an example of geological heritage

Filed under: Cenozoic,Geological Heritage,Tectonosedimentary model — Tags: , , — messinianalicante @ 3:28 PM

The Cenozoic Malaguide Basin from Sierra Espuña (Internal Betic Zone, S Spain) due to the quality of outcropping, areal representation, and continuity in the sedimentation can be considered a key-basin. In the last 30 years, a large number of studies with very different methodological approaches have been done in the area. Models indicate an evolution from passive margin to wedgetop basin from Late Cretaceous to Early Miocene. Sedimentation changes from limestone platforms with scarce terrigenous inputs, during the Paleocene to Early Oligocene, to the deep basin with huge supplies of turbidite sandstones and conglomerates during the Late Oligocene to Early Miocene. The area now appears structured as an antiformal stack with evidence of synsedimentary tectonics. The Cenozoic tectono-sedimentary basin evolution is related to three phases: (1) flexural tectonics during most of the Paleogene times to create the basin; (2) fault and fold compartmentation of the basin with the creation of structural highs and subsiding areas related to blind-fault-propagation folds, deforming the basin from south to north during Late Oligocene to Early Aquitanian times; (3) thin-skin thrusting tectonics when the basin began to be eroded during the Late Aquitanian-Burdigalian. In recent times some works on the geological heritage of the area have been performed trying to diffuse different geological aspects of the sector to the general public. A review of the studies performed and the revisiting of the area allow proposing different key-outcrops to follow the tectono-sedimentary evolution of the Cenozoic basin from this area. Eight sites of geological interest have been selected (Cretaceous-Cenozoic boundary, Paleocene Mula Fm, Lower Eocene Espuña- Valdelaparra Fms, Middle Eocene Malvariche-Cánovas Fms, Lowermost Oligocene As Fm, Upper Oligocene-Lower Aquitanian Bosque Fm, Upper Oligocene-Aquitanian Río Pliego Fm, Burdigalian El Niño Fm) and an evaluation has been performed to obtain four parameters: the scientific value, the educational and touristic potential, and the degradation risk. The firsts three parameters obtained values above 50 being considered of “high” or “very high” interest (“very high” in most of the cases). The last parameter shows always values below 50 indicating a “moderate” or “low” risk of degradation. The obtained values allow us considering the tectono-sedimentary evolution of this basin worthy of being proposed as a geological heritage.

(C) Detail of the fossils from the Malvariche Fm. (D) Field outcrop of the Cánovas Fm with flat larger foraminifera. (E) Solitary corals collected in the Cánovas Fm. (F) Thin section of the Cánovas Fm: flat larger foraminifera.


Cite as: Moliner-Aznar, S.; Martín-Martín, M.; Rodríguez-Estrella, T.; Romero-Sánchez, G. The Cenozoic Malaguide Basin from Sierra Espuña (Murcia, S Spain): An Example of Geological Heritage. Geosciences 2021, 11, 34. geosciences11010034


Field work in the Eocene Prebetic

Filed under: basin analysis,PID2020-114381GB-I00,Team — Tags: , , — messinianalicante @ 1:38 PM

The good weather in Alicante during the winter season has permitted to do the first field season of our project of the  Spanish research agency (Agencia Estatal de Investigación) of the Spanish Science and innovation minister (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación)  entitle as “EVOLUCION TECTONO-DEPOSICIONAL DE CUENCAS SEDIMENTARIAS CENOZOICAS: CARACTERIZACION 2D-3D Y MEJORA DE PATRONES ESTANDAR” (PID2020-114381GB-I00). See previous post.

The picture shows the members of the team imply in this field try to the Eocene rocks within the provinces of Alicante and Murcia.

Crina Miclaus (Alexandru Ioan Cuza University)

Josep Tosquella (Huelva University)

Manuel Martin-Martin (Alicante University)

Jose Enrique Tent-Manclus (Alicante University)

The members of the team on the Campello Harbour. From left to right, Manuel Martin-Martin, Crina Miclaus, Jose Enrique Tent-Manclús and Josep Tosquella.

Next picture shows a nummulite-rich limestone in a quarry near Onil, one of the visited sections in our field work.

Nummulite sections in an Eocene limestone near Onil (Alicante).



Software for Geological modelling (part I)

Filed under: PID2020-114381GB-I00 — Tags: , — messinianalicante @ 11:02 AM

Geological modelling is the ability to create computerized representations of subsurface geology. Many times, every once in a while, I have searched internet to find nice-looking geological models, just to find ideas or whatever the workers were doing. I like the ones with many colours (using all-the-rainbow) with a 3d immersive-perspective, nice vertical and horizontal axis lines and a 3d north-arrow. The idea of being true or just being a well-documented cartoon of something real was not important at the first point. For most geologists a nice looking 3d geological model is supposed to be truer than a simple map.

Then the next search is about the new accepted manuscripts of recently published papers in some scholarly journals, academic journals, to see what was new about illustrating works. My filling and also of my staff companions are that nice-looking figures illustrating a geological manuscript permit a better, faster, less time-consuming publish research results. All of us remember some not top-quality (debatable quality) works published because they have awesome figures.

Well, now we known the interest of geological modelling but most of the time what we need just a geoscience art-work.

A geological model can be obtained after doing three phases, that can produce each one a geological 3d illustration, and can be considered a computerized subsurface geological representation.

  • The first level is the geological 3D sketch in this level show a simplistic way of showing a complex geology. The software to do so is the kind of a “mudball” modelling software as for instance (sketchup), Blender (, or Tinkercad ( But taking in an account that we normally like to start with a geological map or an aerial photomosaic (like google Earth). The software must have 2D mapping and mosaic tiles import filters capabilities. As my experience of working with 2D for mapping the best choice is Autocad 3d Map (Autodesk). I can map then, then create surface an made simplistic geological model, what a sketch is.

Abanilla Sierra 3d model made using autocad from Tent-Manclús (2013) PH D. Thesis. This is an example of a geological model of level 1 in perspective but drawn in 2D.

  • The second level is the realistic 3d model representation. In this step we like to integrate the relief, using a Digital Elevation Model (DEM), with the aerial photomosaic, and the information below the land surface. For geological model we like a 3d net used as scale to appreciate the rock volumes. Also, we like a software with capabilities of change the vertical factor and to create immersive perspectives. All this can be done also with Autodesk programs, but it takes a lot of time to produce the model because they are designed for computer-lovers than like to spend days in front of the screen. The final result can be the better one, but geologist usually like to check the results in the field, not spending all the time with the computer. This last reason is that I prefer a simpler graphical interface so do a nice-looking illustration from a point of view of an Earth scientist, not a blockbuster movie. Therefore, my choose is the golden software surfer program.

Pinoso Diapir 3D model made for the book “Rutas Azules por el Patrimonio Hidrogeológico de Alicante” Diputación de Alicante.2015

  • The third level is using the realistic model to go back and forth in time to see the deformation history and trying to understand the forces and the deformation phases to produce the 3d geometry. This is the goal of the structural geology. To achieve this level most of the time it has to be a simplified the previous model to work with because some information is useless in this level as for instance the aerial photomosaics. For this phase are designed the principal geomodelling software as for instance Petrel, Gocad or MOVE. All mentioned software is oriented to the petroleum industry so it means that are not cheap. In my case the easier to get access has been the MOVE and that’s my choice.

Finally, the example that I most like is the British Geological Survey model of the Assynt culmination Geologica 3D model that you can download here in a 3D pdf file.



Visiting the Monduver geologic dome II

Filed under: Betics,Iberian range — messinianalicante @ 9:33 AM

Students of the third course of Geology of the Alicante University within the subject of Regional Geology: visit Jarafuel triassic section, Montealegre del Castillo triassic section, Sot de Chera Jurassic section and Monduver geologic dome.

The picture shows exposition of the teacher on the Monduver peak.


New project to study sedimentary basins.

Filed under: basin analysis,geodynamic evolution,PID2020-114381GB-I00,Team — messinianalicante @ 8:08 AM

The Spanish research agency (Agencia Estatal de Investigación) of the Spanish Science and innovation minister (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación)  has conceded a new project to study the Cenozoic sedimentary basins entitle as “EVOLUCION TECTONO-DEPOSICIONAL DE CUENCAS SEDIMENTARIAS CENOZOICAS: CARACTERIZACION 2D-3D Y MEJORA DE PATRONES ESTANDAR” (PID2020-114381GB-I00).

This research project  will develop techniques for the analysis of various types of Cenozoic sedimentary basins in a general compressive or convergent framework (associated with strike-slip faults, transported -piggy-back or wedge-top-, and complex foreland systems). The stratigraphic architecture, biostratigraphic control of the different sedimentary bodies, stratigraphic discontinuities will be studied, as well as  sediments  sources (both terrigeneous and biogenic) through mineralogical, petrographic and geochemical studies.


Principal investigator: Manuel Martín-Martín (Alicante University)

Jesús M. Soria (Alicante University)

Manuel Bullejos Lorenzo (Granada University)

Antonio Sánchez Navas (Granada University)

Agustín Martín-Algarra (Granada University)

José Enrique Tent-Manclús (Alicante University)

Josep Tosquella (Huelva University)

Carlos Ureña Almagro (Granada University)

Fernando Pérez-Valera (Alicante University)

Francisco Javier Alcalá-García (Instituto Geológico y Minero de España, IGME)

Estelle Mortimer (University of Leeds)

Douglas Patton (University of Leeds)

Francesco Perri (Calabria University)

Salvatore Critelli (Calabria University)

Crina Miclaus (Alexandru Ioan Cuza University)

Francisco Serrano (Malaga University)


Tectono-sedimentary Cenozoic evolution of the El Habt and Ouezzane Tectonic Units (External Rif, Morocco)

Filed under: geodynamic evolution,Morocco — Tags: , , — messinianalicante @ 7:41 AM

An interdisciplinary study based on lithostratigraphic, biostratigraphic, petrographic and mineralogical analyses has been performed in order to stablish the Cenozoic tectono-sedimentary evolution of the El Habt and Ouezzane Tectonic Units (Intrarif Subzone, External Rif, Morocco). The reconstructed record allowed identification of the depositional architecture and related sedimentary processes of the considered units. The Cenozoic successions were bio-chronologically defined allowing, at the same time, identification of unconformities and associated stratigraphic gaps.

Stratigraphic architecture of the Cenozoic of the El Habt and Ouezzane Units. The arrangement of the studied Logs and correlation with the timetable reflects the supposed paleogeographic position from proximal to distal. In addition, depositional sequences, unconformities, gaps (erosive and depositional), sedimentary realms and tectonic phases are shown.

The presence of five unconformities allowed to define the main stratigraphic units arranged in a regressive trend: (1) lower Paleocene interval (Danian p.p.) assigned to a deep basin; (2) Eocene interval (lower Ypresian-lower Bartonian p.p.) from a deep basin to an external carbonate-siliceous platform; (3) lower Rupelian-upper Chattian p.p. interval deposited on unstable slope with turbidite channels passing upward to an external siliciclastic platform; (4) Burdigalian p.p. interval from a slope; (5) Langhian-Serravallian p.p. interval from slope to external platform realms. The petrography of the arenites and calcarenites allowed to identify supplies derived from erosion of a recycled orogen (transitional and quartzose sub-types).


Qm/F/Lt + CE ternary diagram indicating a discrimination of the sandstones’ provenance. Qm: monocrystalline quartz; F: feldspars (plagioclase and K-feldspars); Lt + CE: lithic fragments including carbonate extrabasinal clasts.


The clay-mineralogy analysis indicates an unroofing (first erosion of Cretaceous terrains followed by upper Jurassic rocks) always accomplished by erosion of Cenozoic terrains. Several tectofacies checked in some stratigraphic intervals seems to indicate the beginning of deformation of the basement generating gentle folds and first activation of blind thrusts, mainly during the Paleogene. A pre-orogenic tectonic framework is considered as risponse to the generalized tectonic inversion (from extension to compression) as frequently registered in the central-western peri-Mediterranean areas. The large volumes of reworked terrigeneous supply during the latest Oligocene-Miocene p.p. indicates the beginnigs of the syn-orogenic sedimentation (foredeep stage of the basins) controlled by active tectonics.

Cites as: Martín-Martín, M., Guerrera, F., Hlila, R., Maaté, A., Maaté, S., Tramontana, M., Serrano, F., Cañaveras, J.C., Alcalá, F.J., Paton, D., 2020. Tectono-Sedimentary Cenozoic Evolution of the El Habt and Ouezzane Tectonic Units (External Rif, Morocco). Geosciences. 2020; 10(12):487..


Middle Eocene carbonate platforms of the westernmost Tethys

A study of the paleoenvironmental evolution of the middle Eocene platforms recognized in the westernmost Tethys has been carried out in the well exposed middle Eocene succession from Sierra Espuña-Mula basin (Betic Cordillera, S Spain). Eight microfacies (Mf1 to Mf8) have been recognized, based mainly on fossil assemblages (principally larger benthic foraminifera), and rock texture and fabric.

Environmental microfacies distribution for the Middle Eocene marine Depositional Sequence 2 (Malvariche andCánovas fms) in Sierra Espuña, arranged from proximal to distal depositional environments: Mf3, Inner ramp lagoon, upper subtidal environment; Mf5, Inner ramp seagrass, euphotic subtidal environment; Mf6 – Mf7, Inner ramp, euphotic lower subtidal environment; Mf2, Proximal middle ramp LBF accumulations (nummulitids), mesophotic environment; Mf1, Proximal middle ramp maërl, mesophotic environment; Mf8, Distal middle ramp LBF accumulations (orthophragminids), mesophotic environment; Mf4, Outer ramp lacking Large Bethic Foraminifera (LBF), oligophotic environment. Ramp subdivision is based on Burchette and Wright (1992), and photic zones are analogous to those described by Pomar et al. (2017), with a ‘mesophotic zone’ comprised between lower limit of occurrence of marine vegetation and the storm wave base (swb).


The fossiliferous assemblage can be asigned to the ‘subtropical’ heterozoan association or to the low-latitude ‘foralgal facies’ , which are dominated by non-framework building, light-dependent biota such as perforate larger benthic foraminifera, coralline algae, and sometimes green algae and solitary corals. Larger benthic foraminifer assemblages, corresponding from euphotic to oligophotic conditions and the large surface showed, suggest a progressive marine ramp under essentially oligotrophic conditions. Eventually, supply of detrital sediments from the continent and/or upwelling currents increasse the nutrients of marine waters. Comparision with other Tethyan sectors allows stating that coral-reef buildups (z-corals) were widespread on shallow platforms of the central and eastern Tethys Ocean, but that these were neither of great dimensions nor dominant because of the much more dominant presence of larger benthic foraminifera. Moreover, these coral constructions were completely absents in the westernmost Tethys. The dominance of larger benthic foraminifera and the absence of z-corals in the westernmost Tethys is explained by particular paleogeographic features due to the occurrence of a narrow and deep oceanic branch (i.e., the Maghrebian Flysch Basin) connecting the Tethys with the Atlantic Ocean.

Biochronostratigraphic chart with numerical time scale, magnetochrons, magnetic polarity, planktonic foraminifera and calcareous nannoplankton zones based on GTS 2012 (Gradstein and Ogg, 2012), correlated with shallow benthic zones (SBZ). Interpretations of main climatic events, trophic resources continuum, LBF specific diversity and coral events in the Tethyan domain are also represented. A synthetic column with the stratigraphic formations and the main trophic conditions and Large Bethic Foraminifera (LBF) and coral (*) events of the Sierra Espuña-Mula Basins are also included.

The various issues regarding the morphological characters and evolution of larger benthic foraminifera in the study area, such as sizes of tests, specific diversity and/or intraspecific variability, number of appearances and last occurrences during the middle Eocene are analyzed and compared with those appearing in other Tethyan sectors. In addition, the early to late Bartonian boundary is recognized in the study area as critical for the biological change as in other shallow-marine environments along the Tethys margins.

Cite as: Martín-Martín, M., Guerrera, F., Tosquella, J., Tramontana, M., 2021. Middle Eocene carbonate platforms of the westernmost Tethys. Sediment. Geol. 415, 105861. doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2021.105861



Sedimentary History and Palaeogeography of the Cenozoic clastic wedges of the Malaguide Complex, Internal Betic Cordillera, Southern Spain

Filed under: Betics,geodynamic evolution — Tags: , , , , , — messinianalicante @ 8:59 PM

The Cenozoic sedimentary cover of the Malaguide Complex (Internal Betic Cordillera, Spain), in the Almería and Málaga areas, consists of a suite of sedimentary successions from continental and shallow-marine to deep-marine environments. Structural and stratigraphic relations, and petrological and geochemical signatures reveal the sedimentary evolution of the Cenozoic Malaguide Complex (CMC) from pre-orogenic (Palocene-Eocene) to syn-orogenic (Oligocene-Early Miocene) stages.

Figure 1. A, Geological sketch map of the Betic Cordillera. B, Paleogeographic reconstruction of the central-western Mediterranean area showing the position of the Mesomediterranean Microplate. C, The Internal Zones of others alpine chains of the Circum-Mediterranean belts (i.e. Rif, Tell, Calabria-Peloritani and Apennine chains). Modified from Martín-Algarra (1987), Guerrera et al. (1993, 2005), Perrone et al. (2006), Critelli et al. (2008), Perri et al. (2013).

Sandstones detrital modes of the overall succession are heterogeneous testifying to a multi-source area, marked by exhumation of the Malaguide basement terranes and of the Internal Betic Zone (Alpujárride Complex) in lower position. Pre-orogenic and syn-orogenic strata consist of four main depositional sequences: the Mula Group (Paleocene), the Xiquena Group (Eocene) for the preorogenic successions; and Ciudad Granada Group (Oligocene-Aquitanian) and Viñuela Group (Burdigalian) for the synorogenic successions. Pre-orogenic strata evolve from intra-arenite to hybrid arenites to progressive increase of sandstones in abundance of detrital supply from sedimentary cover of the internal Betic units. The unroofing history of the internal Betic Units, predominantly in the Malaguide Complex, is clearly testified in strata of the synorogenic clastic units, where detrital supply is coming from the Malaguide Complex. Sedimentary lithic fragments were derived from the Mesozoic strata of the Malaguide Complex while metamorphic detritus is related to the Internal Betic Zone basement that was exhumed starting from the Oligocene. Pre-orogenic mudrocks mainly show abundance of calcite and dolomite over quartz and phyllosilicates. Syn-orogenic mudrocks, record an abrupt decrease in calcite and dolomite and an increase of phyllosilicate, quartz and feldspars mainly in the Malaga section. The geochemical signatures attest to a compositional variation of the samples from pre-to-synorogenic successions, with palaeoweathering indices showing moderate values and a weak up-section decrease. The Cenozoic Malaguide Complex played a key role in the geodynamic evolution of the Betic Cordillera, representing the key tectonic element of the western Mesomediterranean domains.


Figure 2 Mineralogical variations along the studied stratigraphic formations.

Cite as: Critelli, S., Martín-Martín, M., Capobianco, W., Perri, F., 2021. Sedimentary history and palaeogeography of the Cenozoic clastic wedges of the Malaguide Complex, Internal Betic Cordillera, southern Spain. Mar. Pet. Geol. 124, 104775.


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