Mass movement-induced fold-and-thrust belt structures in unconsolidated sediments in Lake Lucerne (Switzerland)



High-resolution seismic imaging and piston coring in Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, have revealed surprising deformation structures in flat-lying, unconsolidated sediment at the foot of subaqueous slopes. These deformation structures appear beneath wedges of massflow deposits and resemble fold-and-thrust belts with basal décollement surfaces. The deformation is interpreted as the result of gravity spreading induced by loading of the slope-adjacent lake floor during massflow deposition. This study investigated four earthquake-triggered lateral mass-movement deposits in Lake Lucerne affecting four sections of the lake floor with areas ranging from 0·25 to 6·5 km2 in area. Up to 6 m thick sediment packages draping the subaqueous slopes slid along the acoustic basement. The resulting failure scars typically lie in water depths of >30 m on slopes characterized by downward steepening and inclinations of >10°. From the base-of-slope to several hundred metres out onto the flat plains, the wedges of massflow deposits overlie deeply (10–20 m) deformed basin-plain sediment characterized by soft sediment fold-and-thrust belts with arcuate strikes and pronounced frontal thrusts. The intensity of deformation decreases towards the more external parts of the massflow wedges. Beyond the frontal thrust, the overridden lake floor remains mostly undisturbed. Geometrical relationships between massflow deposits and the deformed basin-plain sediment indicate that deformation occurred mainly during massflow deposition. Gravity spreading induced by the successive collapse of the growing slope-adjacent massflow wedge is proposed as the driving mechanism for the deformation. The geometry of fjord-type lakes with sharp lower slope breaks favours the deposition of thick, basin-marginal massflow wedges, that effectively load and deform the underlying sediment. In the centre of the basins, the two largest massflow deposits described are directly overlain by thick contained (mega-)turbidites, interpreted as combined products of the suspension clouds set up by subaqueous mass movements and related tsunami and seiche waves.