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


Provenance and paleogeographic implications for the Cenozoic sedimentary cover of the Ghomaride Complex (Internal Rif Belt), Morocco

 The Cenozoic sedimentary cover from the Ghomaride Complex (Internal Rif Belt) has been studied in the Tetuan area (N Morocco) where a suite of sedimentary successions from shallow-marine to deep-marine environments crops out. For that purpose stratigraphic relations and petrological and geochemical signatures have been analyzed. Sandstone suites of the overall succession are heterogeneous and testify a multi-source area, in response of accretionary processes of the Ghomaride-Malaguide units and the exhumation of the lower units of the Internal Rif Zone (e.g. Sebtide-Alpujarride Complex). Pre-orogenic and Syn-orogenic (according to the eoalpine phase) deposits have been identified consisting in two depositional sequences: lower Paleocene and Cuisian-Bartonian, and upper Oligocene-upper Aquitanian and lower Burdigalian, respectively. Pre-orogenic deposits are mainly intra-arenite and hybrid arenites made of a minor amount of siliciclastic detritus but with abundance of intrabasinal carbonate grains. The syn-orogenic sandstone suites are quartzolithic, having abundance of low-grade metamorphic and sedimentary lithic fragments. Sedimentary lithic fragments are derived from the Mesozoic successions of the Ghomaride-Malaguide Complex while metamorphic detritus is related to an unknow Internal Rif Zone basement that was exhumed starting from the late Oligocene and mainly early Miocene. Modal analyses of sandstone suites for the extrabasinal grains mainly indicate lower rank metamorphic and sedimentary source terranes of a recycled orogen. Major and trace elements coupled to the mineralogical composition of the mudrock samples indicate a provenance from felsic source area(s) with a minor but not negligible contribution from mafic rocks mainly in the syn-orogenic suites.

Geochemical analyses (Al–Ti–Zr ternary plot) indicate minor reworking and recycling processes before the final deposition through prolonged processes of sedimentary transportation. The trends evident in both CIA and CIA’ diagrams indicate source areas characterized by moderate weathering in non-steady-state conditions with a weak change of weathering condition from the pre-orogenic to the syn-orogenic cycle. Deposition during the Paleocene and Eocene, took place in the southern continental margin of the Ghomaride-Malaguide domain as a carbonate ramp. Contrarily, sedimentation in the late Oligocene-late Aquitanian took place in wedge-top basins within the Ghomaride- Malaguide domain. These changes occurred during the Burdigalian, when back arc basins were developed in the Internal Betic-Rif Zone. The Cenozoic reconstructed record was contemporaneous of the structuring of the Circum-Mediterranean chains and the Ghomaride-Malaguide Complex played a key role in the geodynamic evolution of the Rif Cordillera, representing a key tectonic element of the western Mesomediterranean domains. 

Cite as: Perri, F., Martín-Martín, M., Maaté, A., Hlila, R., Maaté, S., Criniti, S., Capobianco, W., Critelli, S., 2022. Provenance and paleogeographic implications for the Cenozoic sedimentary cover of the Ghomaride Complex (Internal Rif Belt), Morocco. Mar. Pet. Geol. 143, 105811. doi: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2022.105811


The Cenozoic evolution of the Intrarif (Rif, Morocco)

The sedimentary-tectonic evolution of the Cenozoic strata of the El Habt and Ouezzane Tectonic Units (Intrarif, External Rif) in Morocco is presented by a new work by Martín-Martin et al., (2022) in Geosphere.

New data provide information about the depositional architecture and enable a correlation of the evolution of the External Rif in Morocco with that of the Betic Cordillera in Spain and the Tunisian Tell, which provides new insights for hydrocarbon exploration in the region regarding possible source, reservoir, and seal rocks. The reconstructed Cenozoic succession was bio-chronologically defined, and the major unconformities and stratigraphic gaps were identified. The presence of these unconformities allowed three main stratigraphic sequences to be defined by age: Danian p.p., early Ypresian–early Bartonian p.p., and the early Rupelian–early Serravallian p.p. Three secondary stratigraphic sequences in the former upper main sequence were also defined by age: early Rupelian–late Chattian p.p., Burdigalian p.p., and the Langhian–Serravallian p.p. The depositional setting evolved from deep basin during the Late Cretaceous–Paleocene to external platform-slope during the Eocene–Miocene.

The Cenozoic sandstones contain metamorphic and sedimentary rock fragments derived from a recycled orogen source area. The clay mineralogy in the Cenozoic strata consists of associations of Ill+(I–S) ± Sme, Ill+(I–S) ± Sme+Kln and Ill+(I–S) ± Sme+Kln+ Chl. These associations indicate an initial unroofing in the Paleogene period, then in the Cretaceous period, and finally in the Late Jurassic period during the Eocene–Oligocene. This detritus was followed by variable amounts of a sedimentary mix of Paleogene to Late Jurassic terrains due to several phases of erosion and deposition partly related to syn-sedimentary tectonics during the Miocene. Equivalent features (similar types of sediments, tectofacies, gaps, and unroofing) were also recognized along the Betic Cordillera in Spain and Maghrebian Chain (Morocco and Tunisia) and interpreted as related to a pre-nappe tectonic activity of soft basement folding, which occurred during the Paleogene after the generalized tectonic inversion (from extension to compression) occurred in the Late Cretaceous. The Upper Cretaceous is considered to be the hydrocarbon source rock, while the fractured Eocene and the porous Oligo-Miocene suites are proposed as possible hydrocarbon reservoirs. The Cenozoic stratigraphic architecture and the nappe structure of the region could provide the necessary trap structures.

cite as: Martín-Martín, M., Guerrera, F., Maaté, A., Hlila, R., Serrano, F., Cañaveras, J.C., Paton, D., Alcalá, F.J., Maaté, S., Tramontana, M., and Martín- Pérez, J.A., 2022, The Cenozoic evolution of the Intrarif (Rif, Morocco): Geosphere, v. 17, no. X, p. 1–35,


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

Filed under: 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..

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