The evolution of the high-elevated depocenters of the northern Sierras Pampeanas (ca. 28˚ SL), Argentine broken foreland, South-Central Andes: the Pipanaco Basin


Correspondence: Federico M. Dávila, Centro de Análisis de Cuencas, CICTERRA-UNC, FCEFyN, Ciudad Universitaria, Av. Velez Sarsfield 1611, Córdoba, 5016, Argentina. E-mail:


The Pipanaco Basin, in the southern margin of the Andean Puna plateau at ca. 28°SL, is one of the largest and highest intermontane basins within the northernmost Argentine broken foreland. With a surface elevation >1000 m above sea level, this basin represents a strategic location to understand the subsidence and subsequent uplift history of high-elevation depositional surfaces within the distal Andean foreland. However, the stratigraphic record of the Pipanaco Basin is almost entirely within the subsurface, and no geophysical surveys have been conducted in the region. A high-resolution gravity study has been designed to understand the subsurface basin geometry. This study, together with stratigraphic correlations and flexural and backstripping analysis, suggests that the region was dominated by a regional subsidence episode of ca. 2 km during the Miocene-Pliocene, followed by basement thrusting and ca. 1–1.5 km of sediment filling within restricted intermontane basin between the Pliocene-Pleistocene. Based on the present-day position of the basement top as well as the Neogene-Present sediment thicknesses across the Sierras Pampeanas, which show slight variations along strike, sediment aggradation is not the most suitable process to account for the increase in the topographic level of the high-elevation, close-drainage basins of Argentina. The close correlation between the depth to basement and the mean surface elevations recorded in different swaths indicates that deep-seated geodynamic process affected the northern Sierras Pampeanas. Seismic tomography, as well as a preliminary comparison between the isostatic and seismic Moho, suggests a buoyant lithosphere beneath the northern Sierras Pampeanas, which might have driven the long-wavelength rise of this part of the broken foreland after the major phase of deposition in these Andean basins.