Depositional style and tectonostratigraphic evolution of the El Bierzo Tertiary Subbasin (Pyrenean orogen, NW Spain)



El Bierzo Tertiary sub-basin (Oligocene–Miocene, NW Spain) is a small remnant of the western Duero Basin, a nonmarine broken foreland basin developed in front of the Cantabrian Mountains (Pyrenean orogen). The alluvial infill of El Bierzo Tertiary sub-basin consists of a coarsening-upward succession from fluvial (Toral Formation) to alluvial-fan deposits (Las Médulas Formation) and reflects the uplift of the Cantabrian Mountains, in the north, and then of the related Galaico-Leoneses Mountains, in the south. These alluvial deposits show signs of having been laid down mainly by catastrophic flows (flood-dominated systems) and consist of three main depositional elements, namely, flood-plain fines, and lobe and channel conglomerates and sandstones. The vertical stacking patterns of these deposits and their relationships to the Alpine structures permit to unravel the tectonosedimentary evolution of the basin. The alluvial-plain element is the main constituent of a wide unconfined alluvial plain (Toral Formation) during the early stages of basin evolution, whereas the channel and lobe elements form a set of relatively small, laterally confined alluvial fans (Las Médulas Formation) fed first from the north and then from the south. Las Médulas deposits form two superposed units, the lower unit, cut by the Alpine thrusts, shows a progradational character, and the upper unit, which postdates most of the thrusts but not the youngest ones, displays a composite retrogradational trend. This organisation reflects the interplay between thrust emplacement and alluvial-fan sedimentation and suggests that maximum progradation took place during the climax of Alpine deformation.


Cenozoic; Pyrenean orogen; El Bierzo; Alluvial fans; Foreland basin

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