End-signature of deep-marine basin-fill, as a structurally confined low-gradient clastic system: the Middle Eocene Guaso system, South-central Spanish Pyrenees



The ca 300 m thick Guaso system is the youngest part of the ca 4 km thick deep-marine fill of the Middle Eocene Ainsa basin, Spanish Pyrenees. It is overlain by 150 to 200 m of fine-grained slope, prodelta and deltaic sediments. The ca 25 discrete deep-marine sandbodies within the Ainsa basin accumulated over ca 10 Myr, making eustasy the most likely control for coarse sand deposition (probably the ca 400 kyr Milankovitch mode). The first-order control on basin-scale accommodation, however, was tectonically-driven subsidence. Previously, the Guaso sandbodies were interpreted as linked to deep erosional, canyon-like features, but here it is argued that they are laterally extensive sandbodies, built by lateral-switching of 3 to 10 m deep erosional channels, and confined only by basin structure during deposition. The Guaso system represents the end of deep-marine deposition in a structurally-confined, delta-fed, low-gradient clastic system. The critical end-signature of deep-marine deposition was a phase of differential tectonic uplift above the underlying (Boltaña) thrust creating a narrower and shallower basin morphology, thus allowing sedimentation to create a low-gradient clastic system. Then, the next eustatic sea-level fall was insufficient to permit the cutting of canyons or deeply-incised slope channels, as had been the case earlier when the topographic relief between shelf and basin was at least several hundred metres greater. Such low-gradient clastic systems may characterize the end-signature for the infill of other shallowing-up deep-marine basins where a tectonic driver on subsidence is removed and/or differential uplift/subsidence leads to reduced sea floor gradients, leaving eustasy and sediment flux as the principal control on sediment supply.