Carbonate turbidite sequences deposited in rift-basins of the Jurassic Tethys Ocean (eastern Alps, Switzerland)



    1. Geological Institute, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
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    • Present address: University of Miami, Comparative Sdimentology Laboratory, Fisher Island Station, Miami Beach, FL 33139, U.S.A.


Syn-rift sediments in basins formed along the future southern continental margin of the Jurassic Tethys ocean, comprise, in the eastern Alps of Switzerland, up to 500 m thick carbonate turbidite sequences interbedded with bioturbated marls and limestones. In the fault-bounded troughs no submarine fans developed; in contrast, the fault scarps acted as a line source and the asymmetric geometry as well as the evolution of the basin determined the distribution of redeposited carbonates.

The most abundant redeposits are bio- and lithoclastic grainstones and packstones, with sedimentary structures indicating a wide range of transport mechanisms from grain flow to high- and low-density turbidity currents. Huge chaotic megabreccias record catastrophic depositional events. Their main detrital components are Upper Triassic shallow-water carbonates and skeletal debris from nearby submarine highs.

After an event of extensional tectonism, sedimentary prisms accumulated in the basins along the faults. Each prism is wedge-shaped with a horizontal upper boundary and consists of a thinning- and fining-upward megacycle. Within each megacycle six facies associations are distinguished. At the base of the fault scarp, an association of breccias was first deposited by submarine rockfall and rockfall avalanches. A narrow, approximately 4000 m wide depression along the fault was subsequently filled by the megabreccia association, in which huge megabreccias interfinger with thin-bedded turbidites and hemipelagic limestones. The thick-bedded turbidite association covered the megabreccias or formed, farther basinward, the base of the sedimentary column. Within the thick-bedded turbidites, thinning- and fining-upward cycles are common. The overlying thin-bedded turbidite association shows nearly no cyclicity and the monotonous sequence of fine-grained calciturbidites covers most of the basin area. With continuous filling and diminishing sediment supply, a basin-plain association developed comprising fine-grained and thin-bedded turbidites intercalated with bioturbated marls and limestones. On the gentle slopes opposite the fault escarpment, redeposited beds are scarce and marl/limestone alternations as well as weakly nodular limestones prevail.