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Bedrock lithology control on contemporaneous alluvial fan facies, Oligo-Miocene, southern Pyrenees, Spain

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Abstract

Climate and tectonics play important roles in controlling processes of transport and deposition on alluvial fans, but the bedrock lithology in the fan catchment area is also a significant, independent factor. Adjacent Oligo-Miocene alluvial fan deposits on the northern margin of the Ebro Basin display contrasting depositional characteristics with one dominated by the deposits of debris flows and the other by deposition from flows of water. A difference in clast compositions indicates that the two studied fans (the Nueno and San Julián fans) had contrasting bedrock lithology in their drainage basins. The proximal facies of the Nueno fan body contains matrix-supported conglomerate beds with up to 80% pebble clasts of gypsum in a matrix of gypsiferous sand, interbedded with gypsarenite beds. The drainage basin of this fan was dominated by Triassic bedrock consisting of beds of gypsum, marl and micritic limestone. The San Julián fan body comprises clast-supported, polymict conglomerate beds containing pebbles from Triassic, Cretaceous and Palaeogene limestone units that are exposed in the adjacent part of the basin margin. The interfingering of the deposits of these two fans demonstrates that they were contemporaneous. Given the consistent climate, the differences in fan depositional processes must therefore be attributed to the contrasting bedrock lithology in their drainage basins. A drainage basin consisting mainly of marl and gypsum bedrock provided sufficient fine-grained material to generate debris flows, whereas more dilute, water-lain processes dominated where the drainage basin was largely limestone strata.

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