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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 13 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 13 Dec 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE).

Oligocene-Miocene extension led to mantle exhumation in the central Ligurian Basin, Western Alpine Domain

Anke Dannowski1, Heidrun Kopp1,2, Ingo Grevemeyer1, Dietrich Lange1, Martin Thowart2, Jörg Bialas1, and Martin Wollatz-Vogt1 Anke Dannowski et al.
  • 1GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany
  • 2CAU, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany

Abstract. The Ligurian Basin is located in the Mediterranean Sea to the north-west of Corsica at the transition from the western Alpine orogen to the Apennine system and was generated by the south-eastward trench retreat of the Apennines-Calabrian subduction zone. Late Oligocene to Miocene rifting caused continental extension and subsidence, leading to the opening of the basin. Yet, it still remains enigmatic if rifting caused continental break-up and seafloor spreading. To reveal its lithospheric architecture, we acquired a state of the art seismic refraction and wide-angle reflection profile in the Ligurian Basin. The seismic line was recorded in the framework of SPP2017 4D-MB, the German component of the European AlpArray initiative, and trends in a NE-SW direction at the centre of the Ligurian Basin, roughly parallel to the French coastline.

The seismic data recorded on the newly developed GEOLOG recorder, designed at GEOMAR, are dominated by sedimentary refractions and show mantle Pn arrivals at offsets of up to 70 km and a very prominent wide-angle Moho reflection. The main features share several characteristics (i.e. offset range, continuity) generally associated with continental settings rather than documenting oceanic crust emplaced by seafloor spreading. Seismic tomography results are augmented by gravity data and yield a 7.5–8 km thick sedimentary cover which is directly underlain by serpentinised mantle material at the south-western end of the profile. The acoustic basement at the north-eastern termination is interpreted to be continental crust, thickening towards the NE.

Our study reveals that the oceanic domain does not extend as far north as previously assumed and that extension led to extreme continental thinning and exhumation of sub-continental mantle which eventually became serpentinised.

Anke Dannowski et al.
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Anke Dannowski et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The Ligurian Sea opened ~ 30–15 Ma during the SE migration of the Calabrian subduction zone. The extension of the continental lithosphere led to extreme crustal thinning and mantle exhumation in the Ligurian Basin. Seismic travel time tomography reveals the absence of oceanic crust, documenting that extension of the basin stopped before seafloor spreading was initiated. Our new interpretation on the nature of the crust is important for plate reconstruction modeling related to the Alpine orogen.
The Ligurian Sea opened ~ 30–15 Ma during the SE migration of the Calabrian subduction zone. The...