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Climatic vs. tectonic control on facies and salinity changes in an Eocene rift lake, Upper Rhine Graben, Central Europe

Abstract : The Upper Rhine Graben (URG) is a complex rift and wrench basin about 300 km long, 35 to 50 km wide and filled with up to 3500 m of Eocene to Quaternary sediments. Middle to Late Eocene lacustrine and saline deposits cover an area of c. 7500 km² of the central and southern segment of the URG. Thicknesses vary from a few metres of palustrine limestone to more than 1000 m of halite-bearing marls. Lithofacies associations include bedded halite-bituminous marl alternations with salic paleosols, laminated marls with poor freshwater fauna, partly with intercalated paleosol horizons, poorly bedded marls with paleosols and sandstone beds, and palustrine limestone with pisolites and freshwater gastropods. An marginal facies belt of cyclic channelized alluvial conglomerates, sandstones and rooted overbank mudstones is typically only a few kilometres wide and rapidly replaced by block conglomerates of steeply sloped fan-delta deposits close to the rift margins. There is a first-order shift of facies boundaries in the Eocene succession, indicating rapid transgressive drowning of the internal parts of the basin in the Lutetian and successive progradation of fluviolacustrine environments during the Priabonian. Paleosol facies and fossil content do not show significant changes in the overall climate regime over this transgressive-regressive cycle, spanning almost 10 Ma. Thus, we attribute this first-order cycle trend mainly to early syn-rift tectonics creating accommodation space and its subsequent autocyclic fill-up. In any of these facies there is evidence for high-frequency cyclic variations in lake level and salinity, e. g. by alternations of halite deposits and fossiliferous freshwater marls, recurring pedogenic overprint on laminated hypolimnion deposits, and subaqueous green clay intercalations within successions of palustrine carbonates. They suggest rapid lake level oscillations between deep freshwater lake phases and intense droughts, reducing the open-water surface to a small and shallow salt lake in the deepest parts of the Graben. The time scale of these oscillations is poorly constrained. According to the maturity of the paleosols, time intervals seem to represent cycles well within the Milankovich frequency band, i. e., 10e4 to 10e5 yr, and thus suggest a climatic control on these small-scale cycles.
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Contributeur : Laurent Beccaletto Connectez-vous pour contacter le contributeur
Soumis le : vendredi 18 novembre 2011 - 15:32:57
Dernière modification le : mercredi 3 août 2022 - 04:01:56


  • HAL Id : hal-00642702, version 1



Edgar Nitsch, Ulrike Wielandt-Schuster, Isabel Rupf, Laurent Beccaletto. Climatic vs. tectonic control on facies and salinity changes in an Eocene rift lake, Upper Rhine Graben, Central Europe. Fragile Earth : Geological processes from global to local scales, associated hazards & resources, Sep 2011, Münich, Germany. ⟨hal-00642702⟩



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