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05 261-BUTLER 269-278 27-07-2009 8:33 Pagina 269

Ital.J.Geosci. (Boll.Soc.Geol.It.), Vol. 128, No. 2 (2009), pp. 269-278, 8 figs. (DOI: 10.3301/IJG.2009.128.2.269)

Relationships between the Apennine thrust belt, foredeep


and foreland revealed by marine seismic data, offshore Calabria
ROBERT W.H. BUTLER (*)

ABSTRACT della scarpata apula ed i carbonati della piattaforma omonima si


seguono senza significativa soluzione di continuità sotto al-
Resolving tectono-stratigraphic relationships, critical for using l’avanfossa ed alla catena.
syn-tectonic sedimentation to calibrate time and length scales of I sistemi deposizionali che ricoprono la piattaforma apula
processes in the Apennine-Maghrebian orogenic system, is difficult hanno estensione ed ampiezza di importanza regionale. L’assenza di
using outcrop data alone. Here two commercially-acquired seismic superfici di erosione ed il carattere aggradante dei sistemi deposizio-
reflection profiles are used to establish the structure and strati- nali sulla piattaforma apula indicano che il livello del mare non ha
graphic relationships between the frontal part of the orogenic belt, subito oscillazioni significative. Queste linee di evidenza rendono
the foredeep and foreland regions in the offshore continuation of the poco credibili le ricostruzioni ed i modelli di buckling litosferico per
Apennine system in the northern Ionian sea. Seismic stratigraphic spiegare la geometria arcuata di cospicue porzioni della piattaforma
reasoning is used to define an inter-regional intra-Messinian uncon- apula nei settori a mare. L’avanfossa attuale ed i bacini che si sono
formity surface. In the Apulian foreland this is cut by a widespread formati nella parte superiore del cuneo orogenico sono confinati in
array of normal faults that are sealed by Plio-Quaternary sediments. sezioni ristrette, larghe non più di qualche chilometro. Il margine
The modern foredeep is in part controlled by these faults. On the dell’avanfossa è fortemente controllato dalla presenza di faglie, e
Apulian shelf the deposystems are broad. However, the modern fore- quindi l’appoggio dei depositi sin-orogenici in rapporto di onlap sul
deep and basins developed on the orogenic wedge are only a few km substrato pre-orogenico non riflette semplicemente la migrazione
across. Given the proximity of this study area, the tectono-strati- dell’avanfossa verso l’avampaese. Relazioni tettono-sedimentarie
graphic relationships imaged on these seismic lines are likely to pro- analoghe sono ben rappresentate nel profilo meridionale, ma qui la
vide good analogues for Neogene basins and depositional systems complessità delle strutture deformative (e la corrispondente strut-
for much of the Apennines onshore. Syntectonic basins are narrow, tura che si delinea attraverso lo studio della velocità di propagazione
long-range stratigraphic continuity is likely to be the exception delle onde sismiche) rende ogni interpretazione sulla geometria della
rather than the rule. This challenges some of the assumptions struttura profonda meno vincolata. Sembra comunque assodato che
behind existing tectonic models for the Apennines and similar orogens. la piattaforma apula ed i carbonati di scarpata continuino sotto il
fronte della catena – elemento che indica come la scarpata apula
non rappresenti un lineamento geologicamente vecchio.
KEY WORDS: Apennines, seismic reflection profiles, intra- Dato che l’area oggetto di studio è situata in prossimità della
Messinian unconformity, foredeep, thrust front. linea di costa, le relazioni fra tettonica e sedimentazione dedotte
dall’interpretazione dei due profili sismici a mare probabilmente rap-
presentano un buon esempio comparativo per la ricostruzione dei
RIASSUNTO caratteri geometrici e deposizionali di molti bacini neogenici
nell’entroterra dell’intera catena appenninica. I bacini sin-tettonici
I rapporti fra la catena, l’avanfossa e l’avampaese sono stretti ed isolati; la continuità di sedimentazione sembra per-
dell’Appennino ricostruiti sulla base di dati di sismica nel Mar tanto rappresentare un’eccezione piuttosto che non la regola. Alcuni
Ionio al largo della Calabria. dei modelli tettonici proposti per l’Appennino e per catene orogeni-
che simili assumono che i sistemi stratigrafici ed i bacini di avanfossa
La risoluzione dei rapporti fra tettonica e sedimentazione, che siano molto ampi: ciò implica che le variazioni stratigrafiche siano
utilizza lo studio dei depositi sin-tettonici come strumento per defi- necessariamente graduali ed avvengano su vasta scala. Gli esempi
nire l’età e la durata dei processi deformativi nel sistema orogenico provenienti dalla sismica e discussi in questo lavoro sembrano invece
appenninico-maghrebide, è difficile da acquisire basandosi esclusi- suggerire che i bacini di avanfossa siano ristretti, localizzati e caratte-
vamente su dati di affioramento. In questo lavoro vengono analizzati rizzati da elevata discontinuità per quanto concerne la loro distribu-
due profili sismici a riflessione, provenienti dalla campagna Fugro zione areale: pertanto importanti variazioni laterali nel record strati-
CA99RE00 condotta nel Mare Ionio settentrionale, al fine di rico- grafico, caratteristiche di bacini isolati tra di loro, possono verificarsi
struire la struttura ed i rapporti stratigrafici fra il fronte orogenico, alla scala di alcuni chilometri. I dati presentati in questa nota pos-
l’avanfossa e le aree di avampaese nella prosecuzione a mare della sono essere consultati e reinterpretati utilizzando Virtual Seismic
catena appenninica. I profili analizzati possono costituire un valido Atlas, VSA: www.seismicatlas.org <http://www.seismicatlas.org>.
elemento comparativo naturale per l’analisi dei rapporti fra tettonica
e sedimentazione in altri contesti deformativi.
Vengono descritti i criteri attraverso i quali è stata riconosciuta TERMINI CHIAVE: Appennino, profili sismici a riflessione,
una superficie di discontinuità stratigrafica intra-messiniana di discontinuità stratigrafica intra-messiniana, avanfossa,
importanza regionale. Nel profilo più settentrionale attraverso fronte orogenico.
l’avampaese apulo tale discontinuità risulta troncata da numerose
faglie dirette, che sono sigillate da depositi di età pliocenica e qua-
ternaria. La geometria dell’avanfossa attuale appare in parte control- INTRODUCTION
lata da queste strutture: le più importanti sono quelle che delimitano
la scarpata apula. In questo profilo settentrionale non compaiono
linee di evidenza a sostegno dell’ipotesi di un’attività pre-messiniana The Apennine thrust belt of Italy has an exquisite
record of Neogene syntectonic deposition that may be
used to establish the timing of thrust activity and basin
development (e.g. PATACCA et alii, 1990; reviewed by
(*) Geology and Petroleum Geology, School of Geosciences,
ELTER et alii, 2004). Outcrop data provide detailed strati-
Meston Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UE, United graphic and facies data. However, with a few notable
Kingdom. exceptions, the scale of the various depositional systems
05 261-BUTLER 269-278 27-07-2009 8:33 Pagina 270

270 R.W.H. BUTLER

nal data that can be accessed under license in agreements


directly with Fugro. The web-links to clean images in the
figure caption were correct at the time of writing.

REGIONAL SEISMIC LINE 1

A 2D seismic line in two-way-time from a multiclient


survey acquired by Fugro is presented for offshore SE
Calabria (fig. 2). The precise location and orientation can-
not be reported here for commercial reasons. The line
crosses the thrust front of the Calabrian accretionary
prism, the foredeep and a broad arch of adjacent crust
that represents the offshore continuation of the Apulian
foreland of SE Italy. The structure and related stratigra-
phy is described for different parts of the section, working
from NE to the SW.

Fig. 1 - Simplified location map (base is from the NASA WorldWind THE FORELAND
dataset) of the study area in the continuation of the Apennine oroge-
nic front, offshore southern Italy. Note that precise locations and The NE portion of the seismic line images a broad
orientations of the two regional seismic lines cannot be given. Howe-
ver, fig. 2 comes from towards the NW part of the boxed area while antiformal arch (the «Apulian swell» of AUROUX et alii,
fig. 7 comes from near the SE margin. 1985; CATALANO et alii, 2001), more than 50 km across
– Schema tettonico semplificato, basato su dati NASA WorldWind, defined by the seabed and the general orientation of
dell’area di studio sul prolungamento a mare del fronte della catena ap- stratal reflectors (fig. 3). The requirement to retain spatial
penninica meridionale. Vincoli di riservatezza non consentono di illu-
strare la posizione precisa e l’orientazione dei profili sismici regionali. anonymity of the line prohibits direct ties to wells in this
L’area in fig. 2 rappresenta il settore nord-occidentale del riquadro, area. Consequently there is an inherent uncertainty in
mentre l’area in fig. 7 ne rappresenta il margine sud-orientale. stratigraphic calibration of reflectors. The youngest strata
have good frequency content a define a carapace some
200-400 ms TWT thick. This approximates to 300-600m
thick. It overlies a prominent reflector (M on fig. 3) that
and clear relationships with structures are more conjec- can be traced across the profile beneath which there is
tural. Here seismic reflection data that have hitherto been variable degradation of amplitude and frequency. Where
unavailable are presented from the northern Ionian sea, this degradation is low the underlying reflectors show
offshore Calabria. Previous studies of the area include upward truncation against the prominent reflector (M) –
PESCATORE & SENATORE (1986), SENATORE et alii (1988) relationships interpreted here as due to erosion. Conse-
and CATALANO et alii (2001). For comparison, ARGNANI et quently the prominent reflector (M) surface is interpreted
alii (2001) present seismic data for the area from a differ- as the intra-Messinian unconformity that is recognised
ent survey. The aim of this contribution is to use seismic onshore. The patchy degradation of imaging below this
data from the offshore continuation of the Apennine surface may reflect varying degrees of weathering and
thrust belt to illuminate depositional systems and struc- palaeokarst formation formed during the intra-Messinian
ture, especially to explore the relationships between the low stand in Mediterranean sea-level. The strata overlying
orogenic belt, the foredeep and adjacent foreland. Of this surface are therefore interpreted as being latest
course, the seismic data alone do not have the resolution Messinian through Plio-Quaternary in age.
of stratigraphy or sedimentary facies available at outcrop. A striking feature of the interpreted intra-Messinian
The profiles do however resolve the structural controls reflector is the widespread faulting that affects it. Where
and scales of sedimentary basins which, when studied data quality permits, these faults can be traced into the
using the preserved remnants in orogenic belts, can be underlying strata. There are no unequivocal faults that
highly conjectural. It is not the intention to relate specific exist in these deeper strata that are cut by the intra-
seismic transects to specific cross-sections onshore. Messinian reflector. This indicates that faulting, in this
Rather, general themes concerning scale and deduced part of the profile, is late-Messinian to «early» Pliocene in
geological processes are drawn that the author hopes will age. The faults show normal offsets with generally low
inform further research onshore. apparent throws of a few 10s ms. These are however
The data for this paper come from a 2D multiclient enough to offset the seismic stratigraphy within the pre-
survey (CA99RE00) acquired by Fugro in 1998-1999 using Messinian strata. The faults also penetrate the overlying
a 6000m streamer with 120 fold data recording. In com- carapace of Pliocene strata. However, all the faults on the
parison with surveys that use fewer receivers and shorter section line of fig. 3 are sealed stratigraphically by the
streamers, this results in significant enhancement in sig- younger sediments indicating that, here at least, the nor-
nal-to-noise ratios and a correspondingly crisper image. mal faults are no longer active. This deduction confirms
The data were reprocessed in 2000. Commercial confi- that of ARGNANI (2006) based on other seismic data.
dentiality prohibits precise identification of the data The seabed on fig. 3 is irregular, showing abrupt steps
shown here. Parts of two lines from the NE part of the against which underlying reflectors are truncated. These
survey are interpreted here. They are also available for might be mistaken for fault offsets except that in all cases
inspection and interpretation via the Virtual Seismic the steps are underlain by continuous stratal reflectors.
Atlas (www.seismicatlas.org), as are the links to the origi- Therefore they are interpreted as erosional features. The
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RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE APENNINE THRUST BELT 271

Fig. 2 - Regional seismic line 1: a) shows the clean seismic data; b) shows a simplified interpretation and the location of the more detailed
images. Both diagrams have two-way-time as the vertical scale and there is significant vertical exaggeration in this display. Sea level has been
cropped as part of the anonymizing of the profile. All seismic images used in this paper are available on the Virtual Seismic Atlas via the hub
link: http://see-atlas.leeds.ac.uk:8080/homePages/generic.jsp?resourceId=090000648000f2db. All seismic images used in this paper are available
as high-resolution colour Jpegs on the Virtual Seimic Atlas: www.seismicatlas.org <http://www.seismicatlas.org>.
– Il profilo sismico regionale n. 1: a) Profilo non interpretato; b) interpretazione del profilo sismico e localizzazione delle immagini di maggiore
dettaglio. In entrambe le rappresentazioni la scala verticale, fortemente esagerata, è espressa in tempi di andata e ritorno. L’indicazione circa la
posizione del livello del mare sul profilo è stata omessa per vincoli di riservatezza.

post Messinian sedimentary carapace contains broad sig- indicating that there has not been significant erosion of
moidal reflector patterns and asymptotic convergence this feature and implying that it has remained submarine
indicative of very broad depositional structures. Both the since it formed. There is no evidence that, on the section
erosional surface and interpreted bed-forms indicate line of fig. 2, this fault has any pre-Messinian history.
mobile sediment on the foreland arch with the possibility The footwall to the fault scarp contains an equivalent
of this region acting as a sediment source to adjacent seismic stratigraphy to that described for the region to
basinal areas through the Plio-Quaternary. the NE (fig. 3). A prominent reflector (M of fig. 4) sepa-
In the absence of well-data for this study, the adjacent rates a superficial sedimentary carapace with good ampli-
onshore outcrops of the Apulian promontory (as used by tude and frequency content from a more degraded sub-
CATALANO et alii, 2001) may be used to calibrate the Plio- strate. Reflectors in the substrate are truncated upwards
Quaternary imaged on fig. 3. The Plio-Quaternary sedi- against the bounding surface. Consequently the promi-
mentary cover is thin, overlying a platform sequence from nent reflector is again interpreted as the intra-Messinian
Eocene back through the Mesozoic to Upper Triassic at unconformity surface, overlain by Plio-Quaternary sedi-
depth with a total thickness of 4-5 km. The deep structure ments. The unconformity is cut by numerous faults. How-
of this stratigraphy is not relevant to this paper. However, ever, their interpretation is more equivocal in this part of
the structural simplicity of the pre-Messinian strata on the section. The majority have normal offsets and appear
the profile is evident where seismic quality permit. to be sealed stratigraphically by the overlying Plio-Qua-
ternary sequence. There is no evidence for erosion of the
THE MODERN PLATFORM MARGIN upthrown sides of the faults indicating that they formed
under water. Four faults have been identified on fig. 4
The broad arch of the seabed across the foreland is with plausible reverse offsets, including one adjacent to
cut abruptly by an escarpment that faces into the adja- the main seabed escarpment. Small-offset reverse faults
cent foredeep (fig. 4); part of the so-called «Apulian have been identified in the Adriatic Sea, ahead of the
escarpment». This seabed feature is interpreted here as a main Apennine orogenic front (ARGNANI & GAMBERI,
fault scarp with normal offset. The stratal reflectors ter- 1997), interpreted as having nucleated on older normal
minate abruptly against this and none can be traced faults (BUTLER et alii, 2004). In fig. 4 the notion that
directly across its subsurface continuation, consistent reverse faulting is related to fault inversion is harder to
with the fault interpretation. The escarpment, and criti- demonstrate as clear correlations of pre-Messinian reflec-
cally, its upthrown crest is not significantly degraded tors are ambiguous.
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272 R.W.H. BUTLER

Fig. 3 - Detail of regional seismic line 1 (location on fig. 2) through the offshore continuation of the Apulian platform: a) clean line; b) inter-
pretation. Reflector M is interpreted as an intra-Messinian surface, plausibly the emergent erosional unconformity formed at maximum low-
stand of Mediterranean sea level. High-resolution colour versions of these images are available on the Virtual Seimic Atlas: www.seismicatlas.
org <http://www.seismicatlas.org>.
– Particolare del profilo sismico regionale n. 1 (vedasi la fig. 2 per la localizzazione) attraverso il prolungamento a mare della piattaforma apula:
a) Profilo non interpretato; b) Profilo interpretato. Il riflettore M è qui interpretato come una superficie di discontinuità stratigrafica intra-messi-
niana, e più precisamente come la discordanza angolare erosiva che si è formata durante l’abbassamento del livello del mare nel Mediterraneo
legato alla crisi di salinità.

Notwithstanding the comments above, in contrast to chiefly resedimented evaporites as characterise the «Sec-
the more NE portion of the regional line (shown in fig. 3), ond Cycle» Messinian strata of Sicily. Its uniform seismic
reflector quality is better maintained at depth in fig. 4. facies and thickness suggests that this thin unit was
Beneath the intra-Messinian marker, on either side of the deposited at near horizontal on a low-relief local basin
seabed escarpment there is an inclined break in reflector floor. The present inclination of this horizon therefore
orientation, with deeper strata dipping more steeply than represents a post Messinian tilt, down towards the orogen.
those above. Therefore the deeper parts of the Apulian In this regard the sea floor escarpment represents an
stratigraphy pick out a flexure down towards the modern abrupt morphological hinge, separating the true foreland
orogenic front. The seismic data are insufficient to deter- with a differentially subsided foredeep moat to the orogen.
mine whether these deep inclined reflectors are clino- The post-Messinian sedimentary carapace of this seg-
forms, and hence represent an ancestral hinge margin to ment (fig. 4) of the seismic profile shows more complex
the Apulian platform, or represent tectonic structure. depositional geometry compared with its more NE con-
Whatever their origin, the onlapping sequence above seals tinuation. The shallow section, on the upthrown side of
the geometry. Their structure is tracked regionally by the the sea bed escarpment, shows a broadly arched reflector
intra-Messinian reflector. pattern together with onlap onto tilted portions of the
On the downthrown side of the seabed escarpment it intra-Messinian reflector. In general the faults that offset
is possible to identify a candidate correlative reflector to this surface are simply banked over and sealed strati-
the intra-Messinian unconformity (fig. 4). This is overlain graphically by the younger strata. In one instance the
by a near-transparent interval with a constant thickness of younger sediments show apparent clinoformal geometries
about 120 ms. Both sides of this interval are offset by spilling over a fault. This is a direct subsurface analogue
minor faults and it is onlapped by the overlying carapace for the architectures displayed by the Pleistocene cal-
of younger sediment. The interval is interpreted here as a carenites of the Matera area of the Apulian foreland (TRO-
thin veneer of Upper Messinian sediment, potentially PEANO et alii, 2002). Similar geometries are also described
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RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE APENNINE THRUST BELT 273

Fig. 4 - Detail of regional seismic line 1 (location on fig. 2) through the SE margin of the Apulian platform: a) clean line; b) interpretation.
High-resolution colour versions of these images are available on the Virtual Seimic Atlas: www.seismicatlas.org <http://www.
seismicatlas.org>.
– Particolare del profilo sismico regionale n. 1 (vedasi la fig. 2 per localizzarne approssimativamente la traccia) attraverso il margine sud-orientale
della piattaforma apula: a) Profilo non interpretato; b) Profilo interpretato.

from the Hyblean foreland of Sicily (BUTLER et alii, foreland. The period of tilting is marked by non-deposi-
1997). The reflector architectures for the post Messinian tion without erosion, presumably in a submarine setting.
strata imaged on the SW side of the seabed escarpment
are broadly similar, with faults banked over by the
younger sediments. However, at the escarpment itself, THE ACCRETIONARY PRISM
both at its crest and along its base, the younger sediment The SE margin of the fordeep basin floor is defined
carapace is effectively absent. Messinian strata are inter- by an escarpment that represents the offshore continua-
preted as forming the modern seabed here. This interpre- tion of the Apennine orogenic front (fig. 5). The seabed in
tation implies that the younger sediment have been swept inclined into the foredeep basin to define the upper sur-
out by bottom currents here. face of the orogenic thrust wedge. The lower surface is
more difficult to define as reflector quality beneath the
THE FOREDEEP wedge is strongly degraded. This is a general problem in
thrust belts, exacerbated here by the varying water depth
Sediments of the Apulian margin are imaged dipping over the structure. This, coupled with presumed higher
towards the orogenic front, defining the NE margin of a seismic velocities within the orogenic wedge in compari-
narrow foredeep basin (fig. 5). These include the inferred son with the adjacent foredeep sediments, generates
intra-Messinian reflector identified on the foreland arch of velocity pull up. It is important therefore to establish the
Apulia (fig. 3). The seismic data beneath this surface has importance of this in creating reflector geometry, espe-
reduced amplitude and frequency content. Nevertheless cially the apparent antiformal fold structure seen adja-
some low-angle reflector terminations can be identified cent to the thrust front and the apparent folding in the
implying that the interpreted intra-Messinian reflector is foredeep sediments.
an erosional unconformity. There is no indication of sig- Fig. 6 shows a simple depth conversion of the oro-
nificant thicknesses of evaporites either above or below genic front. In the absence of precise seismic interval
this unconformity, indicating that, at the time of the velocity data it is necessarily speculative. However it
Messinian, this section lay outside any evaporite depocen- serves to illustrate that the imaged structure may be a
tre and was therefore, part of the upstanding Apulian plat- pull-up artefact, or at least have a strongly modified
form. A corollary of this deduction is that the present oro- geometry in reality. The standard sea water velocity (1500
genward dip is an exclusively post-Messinian feature. m/s) is combined with published estimates for the Plio-
The inclined Apulian strata and intra-Messinian sur- Quaternary sediments in the Ionian Sea (1800 m/s; CATA-
face are onlapped by a sub-horizontal stratal package that LANO et alii, 2001). The velocity of the accretionary prism
represents the sedimentary fill to the modern foredeep. is likely to be heterogeneous but significantly higher than
These sediments show no indication of incremental tilt- the adjacent (and overlying) Plio-Quaternary sediments.
ing and they lap against small-offset fault scarps in the As there are reflections emanating from underthrust
top of the Apulian sequence. Consequently they have been Apulian units, presumed to be carbonates, it is likely that
deposited after the entire tilting and deformation of the the structure of the accretionary prism does not generate
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274 R.W.H. BUTLER

Fig. 5 - Detail of regional seismic line 1 (location on fig. 2) through the Apennine orogenic front, the leading part of the orogenic wedge,
together with the adjacent foredeep basin: a) clean line; b) interpretation. High-resolution colour versions of these images are available on
the Virtual Seimic Atlas: www.seismicatlas.org <http://www.seismicatlas.org>.
– Particolare del profilo sismico regionale n. 1 (vedasi la fig. 2 per localizzarne approssimativamente la traccia) attraverso il fronte della cate-
na appenninica, il margine esterno del cuneo orogenico ed attraverso l’adiacente bacino di avanfossa: a) Profilo non interpretato; b) Profilo
interpretato.

significant velocity inversions. Consequently an upper


bound of around 4000 m/s (the assumed seismic velocity
of Mesozoic Apulian carbonates, CATALANO et alii, 2001).
The value used here is 3000 m/s. The modelling is simplis-
tic in that the foredeep sediments are assigned a single
velocity when it is likely to increase with depth.
The result of the simple velocity modelling demon-
strates that the apparent antiform in Apulian carbonates at
the orogenic front could be explained as velocity pull-up,
rather than be a real geological feature. The pull-up effect
results from a combination of a reduction in water depth
across the orogenic front, coupled with an increase in seis-
mic velocity from the sediments of the foredeep to the
Fig. 6 - Investigation of velocity pull-up effects expected by varying accretionary complex. Note that elsewhere in the southern
water depth and seismic velocity in the shallow section: a) shows the
geometry in time, b) is a simple depth conversion of the same data. Apennines there are real structures found beneath the
See text for discussion. allochthon, proven by drilling (e.g. BUTLER et alii, 2004).
– Valutazione degli effetti del fenomeno di pull-up delle velocità, così The structure of the orogenic wedge is, in common
come stimati per varie colonne d’acqua e velocità di propagazione delle with many examples around the world, rather obscure.
onde sismiche nella parte più superficiale della sezione: a) Geometria
ricostruita utilizzando la velocità di propagazione delle onde sismiche; There is reflector continuity suggesting that, at least in
b) Conversione in profondità ottenuta dall’interpretazione degli stessi this leading portion of the orogen, the internal structure
dati. Per la discussione si rimanda al testo. of the thrust belt is not chaotic. Further, the toe of the
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RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE APENNINE THRUST BELT 275

Fig. 7 - Regional seismic line 2: a) clean line; b) interpretation. M is the inferred Messinian reflector. See text for discussion. High-resolution
colour versions of these images are available on the Virtual Seimic Atlas: www.seismicatlas.org <http://www.seismicatlas.org>.
– Profilo sismico regionale n. 2: a) Profilo non interpretato; b) Profilo interpretato. Il riflettore messiniano è indicato con M. Per la discussione si
rimanda al testo.

prism is rimmed by a high amplitude package that may seabed escarpment that represents the submarine expres-
inhibit imaging beneath. This package may represent thin sion of a normal-offset fault. This has the same character
Messinian evaporites and carbonates, as found onland on as the Apulian escarpment of CATALANO et alii (2001, their
the Gela Nappe of Sicily (e.g. BUTLER et alii, 1992). The fig. 5), although in their profile (CROP C9434), the geology
lower part of the accretionary complex is overlain by a is largely obscured by diffractions. Here (fig. 7). the foot-
draping sequence of, presumably Quaternary sediments wall block (upthrown) side of the fault shows little evi-
that show little deformation. Higher on the slope this dence of significant erosion of the intra-Messinian uncon-
sequence is deformed in growth folds. However, the formity or of the older carbonates below, although the
younger sediments on the carapace are undeformed. crest of the fault itself does appear to have been slightly
The orogenic front is marked by a step on the seabed degraded. Chaotic seismic facies at the foot of the escarp-
and the change from horizontal strata of the foredeep to ment may represent the detritus shed from the upper parts
inclined sediments that drape the thrust belt. There is little of the scarp. Notwithstanding these comments, the high
apparent offset of the younger sediment. However, just preservation level of this escarpment suggests that it never
below these strata there are repeated high-amplitude reflec- experienced long-term subaerial emergence.
tors that may represent imbricated Messinian evaporites The base of the seabed escarpment (fig. 7) forms the
and carbonates. Again – analogous geometries can be found NE retaining margin to a narrow sedimentary basin.
onland in the Gela Nappe of Sicily (BUTLER et alii, 1992). More faults are interpreted at depth, banked over by the
modern basin fill. However, the SW margin of this
basin is defined by deformed substrate that continues
REGIONAL SEISMIC LINE 2 across the rest of the profile. For the purposes of this
paper this tract is divided into 3 «domains» which are
For comparative purposes, a second line from Fugro’s described in turn.
multiclient survey is provided in fig. 7. As before, the pre- The upper portion of domain 1 yields high amplitude
cise location and orientation cannot be disclosed. How- reflectors interpreted as a succession of Messinian evap-
ever, it lies further offshore modern Italy than fig. 2. It is orites. They are faulted. The interpretation of the inferred
discussed briefly starting on the Apulian (NE) side of the Messinian reflector and faults shown on fig. 7 is highly
section. non-unique, given the complexity of structure and the
Elements of the seismic stratigraphy for the Apulian limitations of seismic interpretation in 2D. However, the
platform, identified on the northern profile (fig. 2), may be geometry shown here displays both normal and reverse
identified on fig. 7. These include a prominent shallow faults. The overlying (inferred Plio-Quaternary) sediments
reflector that is overlain by high frequency data and under- show deformation that varies, with folds extending to the
lain by more degraded reflector character. Again, this fea- modern seabed with other segments effectively unde-
ture is interpreted as the intra-Messinian unconformity, formed. In places the carapace of young sediments
overlain by a thin carapace of Plio-Quaternary sediments. appears to seal significant post-Messinian thrust struc-
This tectonic domain terminates to the SW at a prominent tures. The NE limit of domain 1 is sealed stratigraphically
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276 R.W.H. BUTLER

by younger sediment. The internal structure of domain 1 inferred Messinian reflector. However, most of the stratal
is difficult to resolve. Given the complexity of surface relationships relate to the local, chiefly extensional, faults
morphology and faulting, it is plausible that much of rather than to thrusts and folds in the thrust wedge.
domain 1 consists of Messinian evaporites, perhaps with Deformation continues to the modern seabed.
other sedimentary fill to the Miocene foredeep. The array
of mini-basins at the surface contribute to a «cobble-
stone» type morphology. DISCUSSION: IMPLICATIONS FOR GEOLOGICAL
The deep structure of the domain 1 is difficult to INVESTIGATIONS IN THE APENNINES
deduce. However, there are semi-continuous, gently-
inclined reflectors at depth that tentatively are interpreted The geological interpretations developed in the earlier
as being part of the Apulian carbonate sequence. If the part of this paper are collated onto two «geoseismic» sec-
Apulian carbonates do indeed continue beneath domain 1 tions (fig. 8) that portray the main relationships evident
then the notion that, for this part of the Ionian Sea, the on the two profiles (figs. 2 and 7). These are used to
modern offset of the seabed (Apulian escarpment) is a address a number of issues relevant for understanding the
reactivated ocean-continent transition of Mesozoic age tectonostratigraphic evolution of the surrounding thrust
(CATALANO et alii, 2001; ARGNANI, 2005) is erroneous. systems, in the Apennines and on Sicily.
This boundary, if it exists on this line of section, would lie The orogenic foreland shows substantial amounts of
at depth and has been overstepped tectonically by the individual rather low-displacement faulting that has cre-
emplaced allochthon. ated a rough sea bed upon which Plio-Quaternary sedi-
Domain 2 has been defined by the nature of the young ments have accumulated. The lower parts of the succes-
sediment carapace and its relationship with its substrate sion banks across fault scarps. Analogous tectono-
which, unlike domain 1, is not marked by a high ampli- stratigraphic relationships are described on the Hyblean
tude reflector sequence. A tentative interpretation is that foreland of Sicily (BUTLER et alii, 1997) and for the Mat-
high velocity Messinian evaporite deposits are absent from era area of Apulia (TROPEANO et alii, 2002). Apart from
this part of the section and that the chaotic reflectors the inferred Messinian surface, which correlates with the
beneath the upper carapace represents deformed (pre- Mediterranean-wide low-stand in sea-level, there is no
Messinian) accretion complex. The boundary between evidence for any other significant erosion or emergence
these domains, labelled here «tectonic boundary A» (fig. 7) of the Apulian foreland on the section lines presented
has a weak series of reflectors dipping SW – interpreted as here, even though the foreland area is both faulted and
being the continuation of Messinian strata in the footwall folded into a broad arch. These deformations must there-
to a major thrust. This tectonic boundary is sealed strati- fore have occurred within a regime of regional subsi-
graphically by sediments that are only weakly-folded indi- dence. Arching is not accompanied by uplift on these pro-
cating that it is not a significant active feature at present. files so the DOGLIONI et alii (1994) proposal that the
Deformation within domain 2 is difficult to interpret given Apulian arch is a manifestation of lithospheric buckling
its chaotic reflector character. However, those folds that (i.e. end-load-driven contractional deformation) is not
are found within the young sedimentary carapace con- supported by these profiles.
tinue up to the modern seabed. Although the post-Messinian faults found on the
Domain 2 is bounded to the SW by a tectonic contact Apulian foreland are sealed stratigraphically by younger
(tectonic contact B on fig. 7) and a major change in parts of the Plio-Quaternary successions, larger faults are
seabed morphology. The contact is interpreted as a present and retain escarpments to control the margins of
thrust, apparently dipping SW. An inclined series of semi- the foredeep. Foreland faulting has been invoked to
continuous reflectors forms the footwall to this thrust explain abrupt facies and thickness variations in ancient
and these continue up to the top of domain 2. Thus is foredeep successions in the Sicily (BUTLER et alii, 1992)
appears that domain 3 overthrusts domain 2. This tec- and within parts of the Apennines (SCISCIANI et alii,
tonic contact may have recent activity at the seabed as 2002). Faults of this type disrupt the simplicity of the
there are no young sediments that clearly seal it. This is foreland monocline that otherwise dips into the orogen.
the only major structure imaged on fig. 7 (or indeed on Consequently, the lateral onlap pattern for foredeep sedi-
fig. 2) that can accommodate significant late Quaternary mentation will be complex. Ideal models for flexural sub-
displacement. Given the (NE-SW) trend of the profile, it sidence in foredeep basins predict that the lateral migra-
is likely that this domain boundary also accommodates tion of onlap of foredeep deposits charts the lateral
significant left-lateral out-of-plane motion. migration of the advancing orogenic load and therefore
As with other parts of the section (fig. 7), the internal act as a proxy for tectonic rates (CIPOLLARI et alii, 1995).
structure of domain 3 is difficult to deduce. However the Onlapping onto a faulted substrate will necessarily be
upper part of this domain contains a deformed high ampli- irregular and might erroneously be interpreted as chart-
tude reflector sequence which, as elsewhere, is interpreted ing pulses in orogenic activity. An alternative interpreta-
as Messinian evaporites. These reflectors, together with the tive strategy might be to use punctuated records of the
overlying (Plio-Quaternary) carapace, are folded and cut by lateral migration in onlap of foredeep sediments to
faults. Collectively these structures have generated a corru- detect fault scarps in the ancestral foreland now stacked
gated seabed and a modern series of mini-basins. within Apennine thrust sheets.
The majority of faults in domain 3 show normal off- The floor of the modern foredeep basin (fig. 8a) is
sets, indicating that this part of the modern orogenic highly confined with a width of only 5-6 km. The scale of
wedge is undergoing significant extension. These faults the various depositional systems here must therefore be
define narrow mini-basins that are ponding sediment in rather small in 2D. Further, the foreland area can act as a
what is, tectonically, a thrust-top setting. There are appar- significant sediment source in addition to material derived
ent reverse faults and contractional folds that deform the from the orogen. Indeed, the foreland area is higher-stand-
05 261-BUTLER 269-278 27-07-2009 8:33 Pagina 277

RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE APENNINE THRUST BELT 277

Fig. 8 - Interpreted «geoseismic» sections illustrating the key tectono-stratigraphic relationships deduced from the two regional seismic lines
(figs. 2 and 7).
– Interpretazione delle sezioni «geo-sismiche» che mostra i rapporti-chiave fra tettonica e sedimentazione dedotti dallo studio delle due sezioni
sismiche analizzate in questo lavoro (figg. 2 e 7).

ing with respect to the frontal part of the thrust belt. This alii, 1992) and parts of the Marnosa Arenacea system of
is the same relationship as between the Hyblean foreland the Northern Apennines (e.g. AMY & TALLING, 2006).
and the Gela Nappe in Sicily (e.g. GRASSO et alii, 1995). The modern orogenic wedge shows evidence for signif-
Offshore in the current study, the post-Messinian succes- icant post-Messinian extension creating local mini-basins.
sion has been eroded at the modern seabed and internally This tectonic style might be expected to have occurred on
shows evidence for submarine (shelfal) resedimentation parts of the Neogene orogenic wedge onshore. In Sicily,
processes. Consequently, the modern foredeep may be significant extension has not been recognised, with Neo-
receiving sediment from the foreland. Given the continuity gene statal relationships on the Gela Nappe and in the Cal-
of the inferred intra-Messinian reflector across the region, tanissetta basin interpreted exclusively in terms of thrust
in this profile there is no significant erosion of older strata related growth folding (e.g. BUTLER & LICKORISH, 1997;
during Plio-Quaternary times. Indeed the crest of the LICKORISH et alii, 1999). However, in parts of the southern
seabed fault scarp («Apulian escarpment’) has not been Apennines the tectono-stratigraphic relationships are more
degraded significantly. Elsewhere and in equivalent tec- equivocal. The effect of extension within the orogenic
tonic settings in the past, however, the interplay between wedge is to cause further shortening at the thrust front.
sea-level and foreland faulting may have acted to expose Therefore some of the substantial thrust displacements
substrate for erosion and resedimentation into the fore- inferred for some parts of the Apennine belt, may reflect a
deep. Sediment sourcing from both the orogen and the combination of subduction-related contraction and more
foreland is a feature of some Neogene successions in the superficial gravity spreading in the orogenic wedge.
southern Apennines (e.g. the Langhian-Serravalian Cilento
Group, CAVUOTO et alii, 2004; Tortonian Gorgoglione-
Serra Palazzo units, SGROSSO, 1998). CONCLUSIONS
All the basins imaged on the seismic sections (fig. 8)
are generally only a few km across, separated by tectoni- The seismic reflection profiles from the northern Ion-
cally-controlled sills. The 3D sediment pathways are not ian Sea reveal the relationships between the Apennine oro-
directly deducible from the 2D seismic profiles. However, genic wedge and the adjacent Apulian foreland. Seismic
given the complexity of basin forms, the depositional fill stratigraphy of the foreland includes a prominent reflec-
for these mini-basins is likely to vary on the km scale. tor, interpreted as the intra-Messinian unconformity, that
This should be the expectation for thrust-top, and indeed, separates a shallow (Plio-Quaternary) sequence from
segments of the ancestral foredeep basins of the Apen- underling platform carbonates within which reflector
nines (c.f. PESCATORE & SENATORE, 1986; SGROSSO, character is rather degraded. The youngest Plio-Quater-
1998). In general, stratigraphic continuity and long-range nary sediments seal an array of generally low-displace-
(10s-100s km) litho-stratigraphic or facies correlations ment faults with normal throws that offset the underlying
should not be expected, with obvious exceptions such as units, especially well-picked out by the intra-Messinian
aspects of the Numidian sand fairway (e.g. PATACCA et unconformity. The modern, relatively shallow-water, Apu-
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278 R.W.H. BUTLER

lian shelf is terminated towards the orogen by a fault BUTLER R.W.H., GRASSO M. & LA MANNA F. (1992) - Origin and
scarp, apparently part of the same series that are found deformation of the Neogene-Recent Maghrebian foredeep at the
Gela Nappe, SE Sicily. Journal of the Geological Society, Lon-
throughout the foreland. On the orogen side of this don, 149, 547-556.
escarpment the Apulian series dips towards the orogen BUTLER R.W.H., GRASSO M., GARDINER W. & SEDGELEY D. (1997) -
and this slope, together with the fault scarp, defines the Depositional patterns and their tectonic controls within the Plio-
outer margin of the foredeep. Foredeep sediments simply Quaternary carbonate sands and muds of onshore and offshore
onlap the surface and show no evidence for a lateral SE Sicily (Italy). Marine Petrol. Geol., 14, 879-892.
migration of the foredeep basin during their deposition. BUTLER R.W.H., MAZZOLI S., CORRADO S., DE DONATIS M., DI BUCCI
Young, presumably Quaternary, sediments drape much of D., GAMBINI R., NASO G., NICOLI C., SCROCCA D., SHINER P. &
ZUCCONI V. (2004) - Applying thick-skinned tectonic models to
the outer part of the orogenic wedge. The internal struc-
the Apennine thrust belt of Italy: limitations and implications. In:
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includes thrusts and significant numbers of extensional Mem. Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geol., 82, 647-667.
faults. Collectively these control the scale of thrust-top CATALANO R., DOGLIONI C. & MERLINI S. (2001) - On the Mesozoic
mini-basins. These mini-basins and the foredeep are only Ionian Basin. Geophysical Journal International, 144, 49-64.
a few km across. As the foreland is at a shallower bathym- CAVUOTO G., MARTELLI L., NARDI G. & VALENTE A. (2004) - Deposi-
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acted as a significant source of sediment into the foredeep sions in Cilento (Southern Apennines). GeoActa, 3, 129-147.
and, potentially, the outer parts of the thrust-top basin CIPOLLARI P., COSENTINO D. & PAROTTO M. (1995) - Modello cinema-
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appear to be restricted to the southern part of the study DOGLIONI C., MONGELLI F. & PIERI P. (1994) - The Puglia uplift (SE-
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deformation while in the southern profile a proportion of to buckling of a thick continental lithosphere. Tectonics, 13,
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by gravity spreading rather than be wholly due to subduc- ELTER P., GRASSO M., PAROTTO M. & VEZZANI L. (2004) - Structural
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205-211.
gen, and beneath its leading edge, shows little evidence for
GRASSO M., MIUCCIO G., MANISCALCO R., GAROFALO P., LA MANNA
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reflectors better explained by velocity pull-up rather than the western margin of the Hyblean Plateau and the Maghrebian
be real geological structures. foredeep, SE Sicily. Implications for the deformational history of
the Gela Nappe. Annales Tectonicae, 9, 7-21.
LICKORISH W.H., GRASSO M., BUTLER R.W.H., ARGNANI A. & MANI-
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
SCALCO R. (1999) - Structural styles and regional tectonic setting
The clean seismic images used in this paper come from the Vir- of the ‘Gela Nappe’ and frontal part of the Maghrebian thrust belt
tual Seismic Atlas (www.seismicatlas.org) where they may be freely in Sicily. Tectonics, 18, 655-668.
accessed and interpreted. Tony Pedley of Fugro is thanked for pro- PATACCA E., SATORI R. & SCANDONE P. (1990) - Tyrrhenian basin and
viding seismic data for the VSA and permitting its use on these apenninic arcs: kinematic relations since Late Tortonian times.
terms. The interpretations are exclusively that of RWHB who takes Mem. Soc. Geol. It., 45, 425-451.
full responsibility for the validity or otherwise of them. Competing
PATACCA E., SCANDONE P., BELLATALLA M., PERILLI N. & SANTINI U.
interpretations may be submitted to the VSA, as discussed on the
(1992) - The Numidian-sand event in the Southern Apennines.
web-site. Silvio Seno and Ardrea Argnani are thanked for construc-
tive reviews of an early draft of this manuscript. Mem. Sci. Geol. Padova, 43, 297-337.
The author was introduced to the Apennine-Sicilian orogens by PESCATORE T.S. & SENATORE M. (1986) - A comparison between a
Mario Grasso and Tonino Decandia who shared a passion for their present-day (Taranto Gulf) and a Miocene (Irpinian Basin) fore-
local geology and a desire to challenge the consensus. The paper is deep of the Southern Apennines (Italy). In: Foreland Basins (Ed.
dedicated to their memory. by P.A. Allen & P. Homewood). Spec. Publ. Int. Assoc. Sedi-
ment., 8, 169-182.
SCISIANI V., TAVARNELLI E. & CALAMITA F. (2002) - The interaction
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Received 15 January 2008; revised version accepted 23 April 2009.