Association between Messinian drainage network formation and major tectonic activity in the Marche Apennines (Italy)


Sonia Scarselli, ETH-Z Geology Institute, HAD F2, Haldenbachstrasse 44, 8092 ZH, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 44 6323026; fax: +41 44 6321422; e-mail:


The Marche Apennines (Italy) offer an excellent opportunity to constrain the temporal and spatial relationships between drainage network formation and tectonic activity. Using a combination of field data, seismic lines and boreholes we show that the main deformation phase took place during the Messinian when the area, affected by the Messinian sea level drop, emerged and evolved from marine to continental conditions. The results highlight that during the Messinian emersion a drainage network developed contemporaneously with an increase in tectonic activity that could be related to sea level fall and river erosion. The present-day river system, which is dominated by transverse rivers that cut straight across the tectonic grain, is located in older Messinian palaeovalleys, even though the region was subsequently covered by water until the late Pliocene–early Pleistocene.