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Sediment routing evolution in the North Alpine Foreland Basin,Austria: interplay of transverse and longitudinal sediment dispersalNormal access

Authors: G.R. Sharman, S.M. Hubbard, J.A. Covault, R. Hinsch, H.G. Linzer and S.A. Graham
Journal name: Basin Research
Issue: Vol 30, No 3, June 2018 pp. 426 - 447
DOI: 10.1111/bre.12259
Organisations: Wiley
Language: English
Info: Article, PDF ( 7.85Mb )

Summary:
Integration of detrital zircon geochronology and three-dimensional (3D) seismic-reflection data from the Molasse basin of Austria yields new insight into Oligocene-early Miocene palaeogeography and patterns of sediment routing within the Alpine foreland of central Europe. Three-dimensional seismic- reflection data show a network of deep-water tributaries and a long-lived (>8 Ma) foredeepaxial channel belt that transported Alpine detritus greater than 100 km from west to east. We present 793 new detrital zircon ages from 10 sandstone samples collected from subsurface cores located within the seismically mapped network of deep-water tributaries and the axial channel belt. Grain age populations correspond with major pre-Alpine orogenic cycles: the Cadomian (750–530 Ma), the Caledonian (490–380 Ma) and the Variscan (350–250 Ma). Additional age populations correspond with Eocene-Oligocene Periadriatic magmatism (40–30 Ma) and pre-Alpine, Precambrian sources (>750 Ma). Although many samples share the same age populations, the abundances of these populations vary significantly. Sediment that entered the deep-water axial channel belt from the west (Freshwater Molasse) and southwest (Inntal fault zone) is characterized by statistically indistinguishable age distributions that include populations of Variscan, Caledonian and Cadomian zircon at modest abundances (15–32% each). Sandstone from a shallow marine unit proximal to the northern basin margin consists of >75% Variscan (350–300 Ma) zircon, which originated from the adjacent Bohemian Massif. Mixing calculations based on the Kolmogorov–Smirnoff statistic suggest that the Alpine fold-thrust belt south of the foreland was also an important source of detritus to the deepwater Molasse basin. We interpret evolving detrital zircon age distributions within the axial foredeep to reflect a progressive increase in longitudinal sediment input from the west (Freshwater Molasse) and/or southwest (Inntal fault zone) relative to transverse sediment input from the fold-thrust belt to the south. We infer that these changes reflect a major reorganization of catchment boundaries and denudation rates in the Alpine Orogen that resulted in the Alpine foreland evolving to dominantly longitudinal sediment dispersal. This change was most notably marked by the development of a submarine canyon during deposition of the Upper Puchkirchen Formation that promoted sediment bypass eastward from Freshwater Molasse depozones to the Molasse basin deep-water axial channel belt. The integration of 3D seismic-reflection data with detrital zircon geochronology illustrates sediment dispersal patterns within a continental-scale orogen, with implications for the relative role of longitudinal vs. transverse sediment delivery in peripheral foreland basins.

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