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ABSTRACT

The Villanueva Complex is a lacustrine alluvial fan - fan delta system which accumulated on the northern margin of the Guadix Basin during the Pliocene. Five transitional zones can be distinguished from proximal to distal areas: proximal alluvial fan, mid-fan, fan fringe (transition zone), proximal fan delta and distal fan delta (lacustrine).

This paper focuses on sedimentation in the fan fringe and the proximal fan delta areas, where the effects of fluctuations in the base level (lacustrine level) are more easily observed. The stratigraphical succession is here characterized by an alternation of fine lacustrine sediments (mudstones and siltstones) and gravels. The gravels appear as isolated channels, stacked channels, lenses and sheets.

The isolated channels, which have a V-shaped profile and better developed wings towards the top, appear in the fan fringe zone and in the fan delta. The stacked channels originate in the fan fringe zone and evolve laterally and distally to isolated channels. The lenticular gravel bodies (lenses) are well represented throughout the fan delta and present small channels at the base, indicating a radial flow pattern. Finally, the sheets are characteristic of the fan fringe zone. The first episodes of channel incision occurred at lowstand lake level. The channels and lenses developed in rising lake level conditions, and sheet deposit took place at highstand lake level. Although the final form of the lithosome was heavily controlled by the fluctuations in lake level, it depended on the relative proportions of gravel and silt sedimentation. The gravel-siltstone interface therefore represents an equilibrium surface between the proportions of sedimentation of these lithologies.

The bodies mentioned above are organized in coarsening and thickening upwards sequences tens of metres thick, in which a distal to proximal evolution can be observed from isolated channels to lenses or from stacked channels to sheets. The building and thickness of these sequences were controlled by fluctuations in the lake level. An initial fall in base level caused lengthening of the channels and entrenchment from distal to proximal areas, and a continuous increase in supply due to erosion in the drainage basin installed on the subaerial fan. When the lake level rose, lobes were formed at the channel endings and overbank processes were made possible, thus generating radial channels, whose levees were formed by amalgamation with the levees of the main lens channels. At the same time, sheets were formed in proximal areas, where the available amount of sediment was greater.