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Fault array evolution in extensional basins: insights from statistical analysis of gravel deposits in the Cecina River (Tuscany, Italy)

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Abstract

Two statistical analyses of gravel clasts from the Lower Pleistocene deposits in the Lower Cecina Valley (Tuscany, Italy) have been combined to unravel changes in the palaeo-drainage system. Data from 16 outcrops were collected and 6400 clasts described. Facies analysis, micro-palaeontology and macro-palaeontology and petrographic characteristics of the gravel deposits have highlighted the presence of three allostratigraphic units. Clast lithology is the main discriminator among these units. Cluster and principal component analyses of the 6400 clasts have improved understanding of the stratigraphy of the Lower Pleistocene deposits and constrain the re-routing of the lower palaeo-Cecina River from a supposedly south-east to north-west direction to the present east to west direction. Short rivers feeding small fan deltas represented by the oldest allostratigraphic units were abandoned in the Lower Pleistocene, when the re-routing of the Cecina River caused the capture of these streams. This evolution suggests a change in the tectonic regime of the area. The fan deltas developed on the hanging wall of normal faults sub-parallel to the coast; a change to a transtensile tectonic regime caused the deviation of the main river channel toward the present coast and the formation of a pull-apart basin, which is now exploited by the Cecina River. This study illustrates the value of lithological analyses of gravel deposits for understanding the tectonic evolution of an area.

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