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Tectonic breakup in the Eastern Betic zone

Six Paleogene-Aquitanian successions have been reconstructed in the Alicante area (eastern External Betic Zone). The lithofacies association evidences “catastrophic” syn-sedimentary tectonic processes consisting of slumps, mega-olisthostromes, “pillow-beds” and turbiditic deposits  (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Field photos of the main macro-tectofacies found in the study area (see text for details). (A) A typical Lower Eocene sequence of the Villafranqueza section. (B) Calcarenite turbidite with convolute bedding (Lower Eocene, Villafranqueza). (C) Two Oligocene carbonate turbiditic channelized bodies (Busot). (D) Oligocene conglomeratic bed with erosional base and reverse grading of clasts, typical of debris flow deposits (Busot). (E) Oligocene slumped level and pillow-beds (Busot). (F) Oligocene mega-flute casts indicating a northwestwards-directed paleocurrents (Relleu). (G) Oligocene pillow-beds (Relleu). (H) Oligocene mega-olisthostrome with huge blocks (Playa Nudista). (I) Slumped megabed (Playa Nudista).

This kind of sedimentation is related to unconformity surfaces delimiting sequence and para-sequence cycles in the stratigraphic record (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Unconformities, associated gaps of the Eocene and Oligocene-Miocene depositional sequences compared with the sedimentary cycles of (Vera, 2000). The figure shows a basement tectonic interpreted as folding during the Eocene and blind thrust during the Oligocene-Aquitanian. The different evolutionary trends are discussed in the text.

The data compiled have enabled the reconstruction of the Paleogene-Aquitanian paleogeographic and geodynamic evolution of this sector of the External Betics. During the Eocene the sedimentary basin is interpreted as a narrow trough affected by (growth) folding related to blind thrust faulting with a source area from the north-western margin, while the southeastern margin remained inactive. During the Oligocene-Aquitanian, the sourcing margin became the southeastern margin of the basin affected by a catastrophic tectonic (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Paleogeographic-geodynamic model of the Alicante Trough during Eocene and Oligocene-Miocene times.

The activity of the margins is identified from specific sediment sources area for the platform-slope-troughsystem and from tectofacies analysis. The southeastern South Iberian Margin is thought to be closer to the Internal Betic Zone, which was tectonically pushing towards the South Iberian Margin. This pushing could generate a lateral progressive elimination of subbetic paleogeographic domains in the eastern Betics (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Synthetic Oligocene-Aquitanian paleogeographic-geodynamic model proposed for the western.

This geodynamic frame could explain the development of such “catastrophic” tectono-sedimentary processes during the Late Oligocene-Early Miocene.

Cite as: Guerrera, F. and Martín-Martín, M. (2014): Paleogene-Aquitanian tectonic breakup in the Eastern External Betic Zone (Alicante, SE Spain). Revista de la Sociedad Geológica de España, 27(1): 271-285.