Progressive Deformation of an Evaporite-Bearing Accretionary Complex - Seamarc-I, Seabeam and Piston-Core Observations from the Mediterranean Ridge

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Marine Geophysical Researches
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The Mediterranean Ridge is an arcuate ridge of deformed sediment caught up in the convergent plate margin between the African plate and the Aegean. An intensive campaign of SeaMARC I and SeaBeam surveys followed by piston coring has been conducted along the contact between undeformed turbidites of the Sirte Abyssal Plain and folded and faulted sediments of the Mediterranean Ridge. Along the outer edge of the Ridge, surficial sediments have been deformed into sinusoidal ridges and troughs (wavelengths 0.5-2 km, amplitude 20-150 m), which we interpret as folds. In plan view, the ridge and the trough fabric parallels the NW-SE trending regional contours, suggesting that the folds formed in response to compression orthogonal to the Mediterranean Ridge. The outermost ridge is shedding a debris apron out onto the abyssal plain, implying that uplift and deformation are ongoing. We show that the geometry of the outermost folds can be produced by elastic bending of a packet of 5-10 relatively strong layers, each 10-20 m thick, interbedded between weaker layers; we equate the strong layers with gypsum beds in the Messinian upper evaporites. Folding the seafloor from a flat layer into the observed ridge and trough topography would shorten the layer by less than 2%. Two percent shortening (equals two percent thickening) is insufficient to create the observed relief of the Mediterranean Ridge even if the entire sediment column down to basement were involved; we infer that additional shortening/thickening is accommodated by thrust faulting above a decollement at the top of the Messinian salt layer. At distances > 15 km from the deformation front and more than 500 m from the abyssal plain, sharp-edged, fine-grained side-scan lineations with very little vertical relief cut across the kilometer-scale ridge and trough topography. These fine-grained lineations fall in two groups trending N/S to NNE/SSW and approximately ENE. We interpret these lineaments as traces of conjugate strike-slip faults formed in the same compressional regime which formed the NW/SE trending folds. The onset of strike-slip faulting may coincide with the cessation of imbricate thrust fan development above the initial salt-controlled decollement surface. The following characteristics of the Mediterranean Ridge are attributed to the presence of evaporites in the incoming sedimentary section: (1) initial deformation by folding rather than thrust faulting; (2) narrow taper; (3) rapid rate of outward growth; (4) karstification.


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