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Structure and evolution of a Messinian mixed carbonate-siliciclastic platform: the role of evaporites (Sorbas Basin, South-east Spain)



The Sorbas Member is a late Messinian complex sedimentary system that formed immediately following deposition of the Messinian evaporites in the Sorbas Basin (South-east Spain). This work describes the sequence architecture and facies organization of a continuous kilometre long, alluvial fan to open platform transect near the village of Cariatiz in the north-east of the basin. The post-evaporitic Cariatiz platform was a mixed carbonate-siliciclastic system composed of four intermediate-frequency, fifth-order depositional sequences (Depositional Sequences 1 to 4) arranged in an overall prograding trend. The intense fracturing and brecciation of these deposits is attributed to the deformation and dissolution of an evaporite body measuring several tens of metres in thickness. The four sequences display significant spatial–temporal variability in both architecture and facies distribution, with two main phases: (i) Depositional Sequences 1 and 2 are ooid and oobioclastic dominated, and show normal marine faunas; and (ii) Depositional Sequences 3 and 4 show a higher siliciclastic contribution and are microbialite dominated. These important changes are interpreted as modifications of the primary controlling factors. Following an initial 70 m drowning, possibly linked to increased oceanic input, Depositional Sequences 1 to 3 were controlled mainly by eustatic variations and inherited topography; their progradation destabilized the evaporite body near the end of the Depositional Sequence 2 period. During the second phase, Depositional Sequences 3 and 4 recorded a progressive restriction of the Sorbas Basin related to a 30 to 40 m fall in water level that was driven mainly by regional factors. These regional factors were dissolution and gravity-induced deformation of the evaporites and correlative evaporative fluid circulation associated with the contrasted arid/humid regional climate that, respectively, controlled sequence geometry and fluctuating water salinity which caused a microbialite bloom.