Architecture of the Castissent fluvial sheet sandstones, Eocene, South Pyrenees, Spain



The Castissent Formation represents a phase of strong fluvial progradation within the fluvio-deltaic Montanyana Group, probably enhanced by the late Ypresian sea-level fall. The structural setting is characterized by the emplacement of the South Pyrenean nappes. The major architectural feature of the Formation is the superposition of three multilateral and multistorey sheet sandstone complexes (A, B and C), interbedded in finer floodplain deposits and dark-grey mudstones of brackish transitional origin. The structure of the sheet sandstone complexes is exemplified by the detailed analysis of the lower sheet sandstone complex (A), 25 m thick, 6 km wide and exposed over 25 km of its length. Three types of channel-fill sandstones serve as components: (1) lenticular-bedded bodies, interpreted as braided stream deposits, (2) lateral accretion-bedded bodies, intepreted as meandering stream deposits, and (3) ribbons, originating from laterally stable and short-lived offshoot or crevasse channels. By coalescence and/or stacking of these channel-fill types, higher-order architectural units (A1, A2, A3) have been formed that together build the sheet sandstone complex. On the basis of downstream variation in proportion and geometrical relation between the channel-fill components, three depositional zones have been differentiated within the fluvial system. Each zone is characterized by specific architectural processes: (1) alternation of minor aggradational-degradational cycles in the proximal valley, (2) generation of new alluvial belts in the intermediate nodal avulsion zone, and (3) successive random avulsion processes with development of semipermanent crevasse channels or minor distributaries in the distal distributive zone. The sedimentation of the Castissent Formation was structurally controlled by an interplay of vertical basement movement due to thrust stacking in the hinterland and surficial thrust displacement to the foreland resulting in alternating southward and northward shift of the fluvial system.