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ELSEVIER Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 Composite sedimentary record of falling stages of Pleistocene


Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

ELSEVIER Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 Composite sedimentary record of falling stages of Pleistocene

Composite sedimentary record of falling stages of Pleistocene glacio-eustatic cycles in a shelf setting (Crotone basin, south Italy)

F. Massari a,Ł , M. Sgavetti b , D. Rio a , A. D’Alessandro c , G. Prosser d

a Dipartimento di Geologia, Paleontologia e Geofisica, Universita` di Padova, Via Giotto 1, 35137 Padova, Italy b Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Universita` di Parma, Viale delle Scienze 78, 43100 Parma, Italy c Dipartimento di Geologia e Geofisica, Universita` di Bari, ‘Campus universitario’, Via E. Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy d Centro di Geodinamica, Universita` della Basilicata, Palazzo Auletta, Via Anzio, 85100 Potenza, Italy

Received 22 June 1998; accepted 18 March 1999


A thick Pleistocene shelf and nearshore cyclical succession was deposited in the S. Mauro sub-basin of the Crotone basin (southern Italy). The regressive units of the cycles are mostly represented by coastal siliciclastic and bioclastic prograding wedges showing a clinoform geometry. These are separated by blanket-like deposits of high lateral persistence recording major transgressive episodes. The aim of this paper is (1) to describe facies patterns and depositional setting of two prograding wedges, particularly focussing on their polycyclic internal architecture, (2) to analyze these units within a sequence-stratigraphic framework, and (3) to speculate on the possible origin of the small-scale cyclicity. The two wedges analyzed in this paper consist of a number of shingles. Individual shingles consist of two physically connected units: (1) a relatively thin package of sigmoid clinoforms, grading into (2) a volumetrically dominant package of oblique-tangential clinoforms with toplap terminations. The shingles are bounded by seaward-dipping surfaces with sigmoid clinoform geometry, which are ravinement surfaces updip, passing into conformable flooding surfaces downdip. The wedges are thus organized into high-frequency, small-scale sequences, each comprising transgressive, highstand and falling-stage systems tracts. As a whole, individual prograding wedges are interpreted as forced-regressive units, as the shoreline was subject to an overall shift basinwards and downwards along a low-angle trajectory, in spite of the repeated minor relative sea-level rises. Tectonic subsidence, and particularly the syndepositional growth of gentle synclines, are thought to have been the key factors allowing the preservation of these forced-regressive units. Progradation of the wedges took place in a high-energy wave climate characterized by high frequency of storms and very efficient alongshore redistribution of sediments. Recurrent, storm-driven, offshore currents led to intense reworking of sediments on the topset platform and gravity spreading on the foreset slope of the prograding wedges. Well-oxygenated conditions over the shelf due to intensified storm activity during glacial periods may have enhanced the rate of production of skeletal, foramol-type carbonates. It can reasonably be assumed that progradation took place from a line source and that the sand bodies are to be regarded as coastal prograding bodies. In spite of active syndepositional tectonics, the cycles can be correlated to Pleistocene high-amplitude sea-level oscillations. The older of the two wedges can be correlated, through bio-magnetostratigraphy, to the major climatic transition which occurred from the marine oxygen-isotope stage 25 to 24–22 (Rio et al., 1996). The younger probably developed during the sea-level fall that ended with substage 18.2, as suggested by sequence- and bio-stratigraphic data. The prograding wedges are thus interpreted to record long-lived sea-level falls of fourth-order cycles. Due to the particular depositional setting, we are inclined to exclude authigenic mechanisms in

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F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

the origin of small-scale cyclicity. Although the concomitance and interaction of different controlling factors may be taken into account, it is tempting to ascribe this cyclicity to minor eustatic changes punctuating long-lived, erratic falling stages, possibly accompanied by climate-driven fluctuations of sediment supply. Shelf-perched and shelf-edge prograding units consisting of foramol-type carbonates are apparently a common falling-stage to lowstand depositional feature in the Mediterranean area during the Late Pliocene and Pleistocene. 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Pleistocene; glacio-eustasy; shallow-water cycles; forced regression; composite prograding wedges; shingles; high-energy wave climate; oxygen-isotope record; erratic sea-level fall; minor eustatic changes

1. Introduction

Late-Early Pleistocene to Late Pleistocene sea- level cycles, as recorded by the δ 18 O composi- tion of the calcite in foraminifera (Shackleton, 1987), are characterized by fluctuating, long-lived glacial buildups, terminated typically by large and abrupt shifts from glacial to interglacial conditions (Broecker and van Donk, 1970; Broecker, 1984; Raymo, 1997). These sea-level fluctuations may combine with basin subsidence and sediment supply to produce sedimentary cycles with facies distribu- tion and sequence architecture that differ from those predicted by current sequence-stratigraphic models (Piper and Perissoratis, 1990, 1991; Aksu et al., 1992; Tesson et al., 1993; Naish and Kamp, 1997). Specifically, well-developed Pleistocene prograding units recording sea-level falls, sometimes punctuated by short-term landward shifts in coastal onlap, have been illustrated in various settings (Aksu et al., 1992; Posamentier et al., 1992; Tesson et al., 1993; Trin- cardi et al., 1996; Trincardi and Correggiari, 1999). In a recent paper, using bio-magnetostratigraphic constraints, we documented the correlation with the standard oxygen-isotope scale of Lower to middle Pleistocene mixed siliciclastic–carbonate cycles, de- veloping in the small, tectonically active S. Mauro sub-basin of the Crotone basin, southern Italy (Rio et al., 1996). The development and preservation of these deposits resulted from differential tectonic sub- sidence and high rates of sediment supply. In this pa- per we illustrate in detail (1) facies patterns and depo- sitional setting of the coastal prograding units which make up the most part of these cycles, particularly fo- cussing on the composite internal stratal architecture of two of them, (2) the analysis of these units within a sequence-stratigraphic conceptual framework, and (3) the possible origin of the small-scale cyclicity.

The nearshore to shelf setting of the investigated succession is similar to that of the classical Pleis- tocene cycles of the Wanganui basin of New Zealand (Kamp and Turner, 1990; Carter et al., 1991; Abbott, 1997; Abbott and Carter, 1997; Naish and Kamp, 1997), although significant differences in the cycle’s internal architecture can be highlighted.

2. S. Mauro sub-basin

The Calabrian segment of the Apennines, cor- responding to the rear of the Calabrian accre- tionary wedge (Fig. 1), recently evolved from Early Pleistocene compression, through middle Pleis- tocene strike-slip faulting, to Late Pleistocene ex- tension and isostatic adjustments (Scheepers, 1994). Within this setting, the evolution of the Crotone basin was controlled by oblique sinistral move- ments along two confining NW-trending crustal shear zones (Rossano–San Nicola and Petilia–Sostri Zones, Fig. 1) (Van Dijk, 1991). Small sub-basins originated within the Crotone basin during the Early Pleistocene, one of which is located in the S. Mauro Marchesato area. This sub-basin, bounded by M. Fuscaldo and Scandale synsedimentary faults (Fig. 2), evolved in a dextral transtensile bend of an overall NNE-oriented extensional stress field, which caused enhanced differential subsidence and dis- placements of active depositional sites, as recorded by angular stratal relationships and unconformities. Syndepositional NE- to NNE-trending folds with very low amplitude are sub-parallel to boundary faults and are more accentuated close to them, suggesting a genetic relationship with fault movements. Their geometries closely resemble those which developed in the hanging-wall of listric extensional faults with staircase trajectory (Gibbs, 1984; Ellis and McClay,

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110


Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 87 Fig. 1. Geological setting of study

Fig. 1. Geological setting of study area (shown by rectangle), with indications of main geological units of southern Italy (adapted from Van Dijk, 1994). Evolution of the Crotone basin was controlled by two NW-trending crustal shear zones, Rossano–San Nicola and Petilia–Sostri zones.

1988; Xiao and Suppe, 1992). They may result from hanging-wall deformation related to listric fault ge- ometries in a dextral transtensile tectonic setting. Change in along-strike displacement led to variabil- ity in stratigraphic style, some segments being char- acterized by growth folds creating sediment wedges thinning towards the fault, and other segments typ- ified by rollover geometries (e.g. section A–A 0 in Fig. 2), with thickening and diverging stratigraphy towards the fault zone (cf. Gawthorpe et al., 1997). This tectonic setting is also supported by presence of minor normal faults crossing the succession, related to nearly NW–SE extension.

The infill of the S. Mauro Marchesato sub- basin represents a relatively expanded sedimentary record of the upper-Lower Pleistocene and middle Pleistocene (we follow Berggren et al., 1995 in placing the Early–middle Pleistocene boundary at the Matuyama–Brunhes reversal). Five stratigraphic units are recognized (Fig. 3), informally named Cutro 1 and Cutro 2 (Cutro group), S. Mauro 1, S. Mauro 2 and S. Mauro 3 (S. Mauro group) (Rio et al., 1996). Relatively high rates of subsidence and sediment supply, combined with deposition in shal- low-water environments sensitive to even minor rela- tive sea-level changes, resulted in a stack of high-fre-


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quency unconformity-bounded cycles, particularly in Cutro 2 and the S. Mauro group (Rio et al., 1996). The arkosic composition of siliciclastic sands of the S. Mauro group suggests provenance from the nearby uplifting granitic Sila massif, presumably through short-headed, high-gradient streams. Although the large-scale stratigraphic organiza- tion of the succession is strongly influenced by tectonics, chronological constraints from calcareous nannofossil biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy indicate that the transgressive episodes within Cutro 2, S. Mauro 1 and S. Mauro 2 are synchronous with marine oxygen-isotope stages (MIS) 33 to 19; the match between corresponding physical cycles and the global oxygen-isotope curve provides convinc- ing evidence that the cycles are the result of global eustasy (Rio et al., 1996). The S. Mauro group includes a wide range of sedi- ments ranging from outer-shelf muds to braided-river conglomerates. S. Mauro 1 consists of a complex pro- grading unit, followed by a mud-dominated, domi- nantly aggrading interval (S. Mauro 2). Two major transgressions are recognized in this interval. In the younger of them the Matuyama–Brunhes boundary is recognized, allowing a correlation with MIS 19 (Rio et al., 1996). MIS 19 muds include an ash layer trace- able throughout the study area. Above this stage, cor- relation of the sedimentary cycles with marine isotope stages could not be carried out because of the lack of rigorous chronological constraints. A progressive slowing-down of the subsidence rate during the late stage of basin filling led to an upward increase in the amounts of lagoonal and fluvial deposits (Fig. 3), and increasing incompleteness of the cycles. As a whole, therefore, the S. Mauro group shows an overall back- stepping to progradational vertical stacking pattern of the cycles probably reflecting the long-term trend of regional subsidence.

The infill of the S. Mauro sub-basin was followed by late-middle Pleistocene to Recent uplift, which led to the formation of a number of marine terraces. The oldest one of these (not mapped in Fig. 2) is ascribed to MIS 7 (Gliozzi, 1987; Cosentino et al., 1989) or MIS 9 (Palmentola et al., 1990). If the second case were true, the average uplift rate in the Late Pleistocene would have been ca. 0.4 m=ky.

3. Prograding composite wedges

In the S. Mauro group the bulk of the sediment volume is represented by prograding units, which are mainly sand-dominated wedges with clinoform geometry (Figs. 3 and 4). They are bounded at the top by discontinuity surfaces overlain by aggrad- ing, blanket-like deposits of high lateral persistence, showing evidence of base-level rise. The latter range from generally thin, fossiliferous, coarse shoreface deposits, erosively underlain in the upper cycles by fluvial incised-valley fills grading upwards into la- goonal muds, to conformable marine offshore mud- stones (especially in most subsiding areas at the top of S. Mauro 1, e.g. Valle di Manche section). Two wedges are particularly prominent within the S. Mauro group (Fig. 4), each prograding for almost 5 km down depositional dip. The lower one (A in Figs. 3 and 4) comprises S. Mauro 1 unit. The upper one (B in Figs. 3 and 4) is located in the lower part of S. Mauro 3.

3.1. Internal organization

Wedges A and B (Fig. 4) have a composite inter- nal architecture. Each wedge consists of a number of physically connected shingles, details of which are shown in Figs. 5–9 and described in Table 1. Due

Fig. 2. Simplified geological map of study area. To the west, S. Mauro sub-basin is bounded by the N-directed dextral oblique-slip M. Fuscaldo fault, which forms a releasing bend in the S. Mauro area; to the east, it is bounded by the dextral oblique-slip Scandale fault, characterized by major extensional component. Both faults were active during sedimentation, and movements along them took place in a NNE-oriented extensional stress field. Syndepositional NE- to NNE-trending folds with very low amplitude are sub-parallel to boundary faults and are more accentuated close to them, suggesting genetic relationship with fault movements. The Cutro group is dated to Early Pleistocene and S. Mauro group to late-Early Pleistocene and middle Pleistocene. AA 0 , BB 0 and CC 0 : geological sections (traces in map) illustrating effects of syndepositional tectonics (note vertical exaggeration). Section B–B 0 shows that the depocentre active during deposition of S. Mauro 1 and S. Mauro 2 shifted westwards during deposition of S. Mauro 3. For the sake of clarity internal unconformities of composite wedges are omitted in section C–C 0 .


F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 Fig. 3. Generalized stratigraphic section of

Fig. 3. Generalized stratigraphic section of study area, with indication of bio- and magnetostratigraphy, and correlation with standard oxygen isotopic scale. A and B represent composite wedges studied here.


F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 Fig. 4. Dip-oriented cross-section along
F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110
Fig. 4. Dip-oriented cross-section along the eastern side of the basin fill, from Scandale fault to T.S. Margherita, showing stacked cycles of S. Mauro 1, S. Mauro 2 and
lower part of S. Mauro 3. Note general geometry of wedges A and B and their internal subdivision into a number of shingled units. Flanks of broad gravel-filled incised
valley at the top are not apparent, as section is sub-parallel to palaeoflow direction. Vertical scale is enlarged.


F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 Fig. 5. Photo and sketch of

Fig. 5. Photo and sketch of segment of lower composite wedge in ‘S. Mauro S’ section (see Fig. 2 for location) showing unconformable contact (arrow) of two shingled units, draped by coarse shoreface deposits. Section is oblique to depositional dip of clinoforms.

to erosional termination of the outcrops of S. Mauro group on the basinward side, only a conservative estimate of the number of shingles can be made. Six shingles are recognized within wedge A and five within wedge B.

3.2. Depositional setting

A number of features suggest that the prograding units were deposited as strike-fed coastal lithosomes developed in a high-energy wave climate: (1) the largely bioclastic composition of some shingles, in- cluding well rounded shell remains, with evidence of intrabasinal source located on topset platforms; (2)

textural features of the sands, which are commonly very well sorted, especially in the topset of the units, pointing to efficient winnowing by wave action; (3) sedimentary structures observed in the topset beds, all indicative of a high-energy wave-dominated set- ting (Fig. 7). Strike-oriented trough cross-beds sug- gest a genetic link with very efficient longshore drift. Wave megaripples, offshore-directed trough cross-beds and swaley cross-beds suggest the ac- tivity of high-energy waves and storm-driven flows. All these features indicate active wave-reworking and efficient along-shore redistribution of sediments. The arkosic composition of siliciclastic sands sug- gests provenance from the nearby rising granitic


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F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

Fig. 6. (a) Sketch from photomosaic showing internal organization of upper composite wedge, as seen in ‘Valle di Manche’ section, oriented slightly oblique to depositional dip of clinoforms (see Fig. 2, section C–C 0 , for location). Note enlarged vertical scale. This wedge is internally subdivided into shingled units by prominent, seaward-dipping surfaces with sigmoid clinoform geometry, updip portions of which are erosional unconformities mantled by shoreface deposits. Wedge is capped by a regional unconformity, above which shoreface sands of another cycle are variably eroded by a broad incised valley infilled with braided-river deposits. These in turn are capped by a transgressive sheet. (b) Wedge segment showing detail of geometry of unconformity surface (arrows) at junction of two shingled units. (c) Detail of unconformity (ravinement surface) between two shingled units. Contact is marked by erosional gutters and is overlain by three closely spaced coarse fossiliferous bands, interlayered with fine sand. Hoe 67 cm long for scale.


F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 Fig. 7. Vertical facies sequence of

Fig. 7. Vertical facies sequence of upper prograding wedge (reconstructed from a number of partial sections measured in the southern part of the study area). Note that palaeocurrent pattern in topset beds is comparably much more variable than in foreset beds, where dip of trough cross-bedded intrasets approximates clinoform dip.


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F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

Fig. 8. Details of siliciclastic units of upper composite wedge. (a) Trough cross-bedding and mud-draped wave megaripples in upper part of topset beds. Hoe 67 cm long for scale. (b) Swaley cross-stratification in topsets. (c) Rhythmic pattern of foreset beds due to recurrent physical emplacement of event beds and intervening bioturbation, mainly echinoid meniscate traces. (d) Echinoid meniscate traces on a stratification surface of foreset beds.


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Table 1 Facies scheme of composite wedges

General features of the composite wedges

Stratal architecture

Stratal architecture of individual shingles (Fig. 7)

Faunal=floral elements

Topset beds

Foreset beds

Toeset and bottomset beds

Light-brown to yellowish, prograding, upward-shallowing wedges

up to 45 m thick, with basal

contact changing from sharp-erosional (locally marked by intraclast and=or shell lags) to gradational basinwards. Grain size from silt=fine sand to granule- and rarely pebble=cobble gravel; sand predominates. Sorting good to moderate, best in fine sand. Coarsest deposits (up to pebbles and cobbles) typically occur in most basinward located units. Composition from

purely siliciclastic (arkosic sands, with clasts of quartz and granite in the coarser fractions) to mixed, with locally high bioclastic content especially in wedge

A (Fig. 9a,b).

Wedges A and B display composite internal architecture consisting of a

number of shingles. Within individual shingles an early, thin package of sigmoid clinoforms recording a short-way progradation accompanied by slight landward encroaching of coastal onlap, is physically connected with a volumetrically dominant package of oblique-tangential clinoforms with toplap terminations. The shingles are bounded by seaward-dipping sigmoid surfaces (Fig. 6) which are unconformable updip, becoming conformable at the asymptotic toe of the shingles. These surfaces are

blanketed updip by fossiliferous sheets of gravelly sand 1–3 m thick, grading downdip into offshore marine muds.

Sandy to gravelly topset beds are preserved only at the top of the packages of sigmoid clinoforms. A topmost division, commonly removed by subsequent erosion, shows strike- and downdip-oriented trough cross-bedding, planar lamination and wave megaripples (Figs. 7 and 8a). Local storm-wave shell pavements. This division grades downwards into a commonly preserved swaley cross-bedded (Figs. 7 and 8b) and planar-laminated division with abundant echinoid meniscate traces.

Regularly stratified decimetre-thick layers (Fig. 7) ranging in grain size from fine sand to granule gravel, locally with thin muddy interbeds increasing in thickness and abundance downdip. Dip angles from less than 10º to 16º (Fig. 9d) according to grain size and gradient of the substrate. Beds mostly planar-laminated (Figs. 7 and 8c). Normal grading may occur in both fine- and coarse-grained layers, inverse grading occasionally in the latter. Typical rhythmic pattern due to recurrent physical emplacement of event beds and intervening bioturbation (Fig. 8c). Shells mostly convex-up, locally imbricated with low to high imbrication angles. Local convolute patterns. Rare sets of scour-based backset beds (Fig. 7) recording upslope migration of hydraulic jumps (Massari, 1996). Abundant echinoid meniscate traces (Fig. 8d) locally associated with thin tubes of polychaetes and escape burrows.

Foreset beds merge asymptotically downdip into heavily to completely bioturbated toesets and bottomsets (Fig. 7), interbedded with downdip increasing amounts of bluish mud. Some layers are crossed by sparse Thalassinoides burrows and densely penetrated in the upper part by sub-horizontal to slightly oblique, unwalled, non-branching burrows 0.5 cm in diam. Downdip increase in mud content suggests that the energy of the system was lowest in the toeset and bottomset, allowing settling of fines from suspension.

Arctica islandica is abundant in wedge A. Skeletal content of highly bioclastic units consists of disarticulated, whole or broken and commonly abraded molluscan shells, bryozoa, serpulids, echinoid fragments, branches of corallines and rhodoliths, in a matrix of comminuted bio-debris (foramol-type skeletal concentrations) (Fig. 9b). Skeletal assemblages are ecologically mixed, with the imprints of various taphonomic processes and evidence of initial residence above the fair-weather wave base before later transport and redeposition. Elements exhumed from the substrate are mixed with shallow-water coeval elements. Details on the faunal and floral elements can be found in Appendix A.


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F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

Fig. 9. (a) Segment of highly bioclastic unit with clinoform geometry, about 15 m high (lower composite wedge). Planar erosional top surface (arrow) is mantled by siliciclastic shoreface sands. (b) Detail of foreset beds: small rhodoliths and fragments of bivalves in a matrix of comminuted bioclastic debris. (c) Progressive angular unconformity on southern wall of Timpone S. Margherita (see Fig. 2, section B–B 0 , for location). (d) Steep-inclined foreset beds (upper composite wedge).


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Sila massif, presumably through short-headed, high- gradient streams. However, sedimentary structures and stratal geometries indicate that coastal processes played a dominant role in longshore redistribution of sediments and straightening of the coast, so that localized and discrete deltaic protuberances of the shoreline were most probably absent. Progradational advance of the shoreline across the shelf led to decreasing shelf width and increasing exposure to open-water waves, and coastal systems consequently became more wave-influenced, with maximization of storm reworking (Einsele, 1993; Galloway and Hob- day, 1996). Frictional coupling between the wind and the water surface during recurrent storms caused coastal setup and water to be driven offshore, leading to intense reworking of sediments on the topset plat- form and gravity spreading of sediment-laden flows on the foreset slope of the prograding units (cf. Saito, 1991; Laptas, 1992; Tesson et al., 1993; Chiocci and Orlando, 1996; Hanken et al., 1996; Hernandez- Molina et al., 1998; Pomar and Tropeano, 1998; Chiocci and Romagnoli, 1999). In the case of richly bioclastic units, there is clear evidence that foramol-type deposits were produced on a shallow-water platform located in topset posi- tion. Wave action reworked and comminuted skeletal material temporarily resident above the fair-weather wave base, while redeposition by sediment gravity- flows on to the foreset slope below fair-weather wave base produced amalgamated, densely packed concen- trations. The above processes generated a characteris- tic type of multiple-event skeletal concentrations with an important ‘lag’ component (sensu Kidwell, 1991). Undoubtedly the studied prograding bodies are quite peculiar units, as they cannot be compared to the usual coarsening-upwards units resulting from the progradation of a beach face, nor may they be de- fined as a sort of deltaic unit. They are significantly different from typical shoreface prograding units, which commonly show much lesser dip angles of clinoforms (on average 0.3º according to Walker and Plint, 1992). Main differences include the length and steep inclination of clinoforms, importance of sedi- ment gravity flows on the foreset slopes, and depth attained by toeset beds, which extend into the off- shore zone, well below the fair-weather wave base. We will use the term ‘coastal prograding wedges’ as they were most probably connected to the shoreline

and shaped by coastal processes. Comparable mid- shelf and shelf-margin prograding deposits emplaced during falling and lowstand Pleistocene stages on the Tyrrhenian Sea margin were interpreted by Trincardi and Field (1991) to have formed by coastal progra- dation as beach–shoreface complexes. Units with comparable internal architecture were referred to as ‘infralittoral’ prograding wedges=prisms by Pomar and Tropeano (1998) and Hernandez-Molina et al.


3.3. Surfaces bounding the shingled units

The surfaces with sigmoid clinoform geometry bounding the shingled units (Figs. 5 and 6) are un- conformably blanketed updip by fossiliferous sheets of gravelly sand 1–3 m thick. These fine progressively downdip into conformable offshore muds. The coarse deposits generally consist of sheet-like granule- to pebble-conglomerates with a sandy matrix, contain- ing sparse to densely packed skeletal remains (pec- tinids, echinoids) and locally bored pebbles and pe- dorelics. From the pebble-strewn erosional surfaces, subvertical burrows (probable Cylindrichnus), some- times surrounded by thin polychaete burrows, locally penetrate deeply downwards into the sandy substrate. The unconformable surfaces are locally marked by erosional gutters up to 20 cm deep (Fig. 6c), or shallow scours (Fig. 5) with high width=depth ratio, up to 2.1 m deep. The gutters sometimes dis- play vertical walls and are infilled with the coarsest available elements, commonly with normal grading. The infills of the scours range in grain size from granule sand with sparse pebbles to medium sand, and in composition from siliciclastic to richly bio- clastic. They consist of a number of scour-based, bipartite beds, 20–40 cm thick. The lower divisions of the beds are massive or normally graded, poorly sorted, with chaotic fabric, and contain abundant mud clasts, well-rounded pebbles (mostly quartz and granite), sparse pedorelics (small reworked cal- crete nodules), and sometimes variably fragmented, abraded and bio-eroded shells (including pectinids and Arctica islandica, mostly with concave-up valves) and rhodoliths. The upper divisions are pla- nar- to low-angle-laminated, better sorted, sandy to granular, and locally mud-draped. They may show good imbrication of small bioclasts with a dominant

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110


mode indicating basinward flow, and a subordinate opposite mode. Some layers show echinoid menis- cate traces or mud-draped wave ripples at the top. The above bipartite pattern suggests deposition by highly turbulent and highly concentrated flows and final reworking by traction=oscillatory processes. The scour infills commonly grade upwards into extensive, 1–2 m thick blankets of planar- to low- angle-laminated, well-sorted sand.

3.3.1. Interpretation The deposits veneering the unconformity surfaces are coarse lags resulting from reworking of former deposits during phases of active shoreface retreat. The unconformities are therefore ravinement sur- faces. Their correlative downdip conformities, man- tled by silty muds, may be regarded as marine flood- ing surfaces in distal position. The relatively steep gradients of landward-migrating shoreface envelopes were controlled by the dip angles of underlying beds, and probably also by high rates of relative sea-level rise. The shallow, broad erosional lows infilled with coarse deposits suggest that the ravinement process related to shoreface retreat may have been accom- panied by localized scour. A variable erodibility of the substrate may have been controlled by differen- tial cementation achieved during a previous stage of subaerial exposure (cf. Trincardi and Field, 1991). A certain degree of cementation is also suggested by the evidence of limited effects of erosion during the stages of shoreface retreat along the surfaces bound- ing the shingled units, and subsequently along the major unconformity surfaces bounding the compos- ite wedges. Actually the only clearly recognizable erosional effect, except for the above mentioned scours, is the common removal of the uppermost part of the topset of the shingled units.

4. Sequence stratigraphy of composite wedges

Geometry and stratal architecture of the studied wedges and their relationships with the substrate indicate that progradation took place on to the shelf and that no shelf-margin units are present in the preserved part of the infill of S. Mauro sub-basin. Several authors have drawn attention to the im- portance of shelf and nearshore prograding deposits

forming during relative sea-level falls, and have dis- cussed the significance of these deposits within a se- quence-stratigraphic framework (Plint, 1988, 1991; Walker and Plint, 1992; Hunt and Tucker, 1992, 1995; Helland-Hansen and Gjelberg, 1994; Naish and Kamp, 1997, among others). In our study area, we recognized two different scales of cyclicity. (1) On the larger scale, the two composite wedges are thought to record accretionary forced regres- sions (sensu Helland-Hansen and Gjelberg, 1994) of fourth-order sequences. The interpretation in terms of forced-regressive wedges stems from the evidence that the shoreline was subject to an overall shift bas- inwards and downwards along a low-angle trajectory, in spite of repeated minor relative sea-level rises, and that coarsest deposits occur within the most distal parts of the composite wedges (T.S. Litano section). The major discontinuities bounding the wedges at the top are interpreted as fourth-order sequence bound- aries. These are draped by aggrading blanket-like deposits showing high lateral persistence and lack of backstepping patterns, which record major episodes of relative sea-level rise. (2) On the scale of individual shingled units (Fig. 10), the sigmoid packages of clinoforms re- flect progradation concomitant with the creation of accommodation. Oblique, offlapping packages re- flect progradation in a setting of slowly decreasing accommodation. The basinward and downward dis- placement of the shoreline during this stage is proved by the physical lowering of the toplap surface and the fact that subsequent shoreface retreat producing a ravinement surface starts from a point located sig- nificantly downdip along the front of the prograding body. Blanket deposits covering erosional unconfor- mities between shingled units reflect minor, high- frequency events of relative sea-level rise. The un- conformities are ravinement surfaces which removed any evidence of previous subaerial exposure. Their correlative downdip conformities, mantled by silty muds, are marine flooding surfaces in distal position. The attribution of a sequence-stratigraphic signif- icance to the shape of clinoforms (sigmoid versus oblique) is shared by Christie-Blick (1991) and Hel- land-Hansen (1993). The latter regards the clinoform shape as an indirect criterion for estimating the ratio of accommodation to supply.


F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 Fig. 10. Scheme of development of

Fig. 10. Scheme of development of shingles as component units of prograding composite wedges (terminology is that suggested by Helland-Hansen and Gjelberg, 1994).

Following the nongenetic, descriptive nomencla- ture of Helland-Hansen and Gjelberg (1994), the blanket deposits covering the shingle-bounding sig- moid unconformities should be ascribed to non-accre- tionary transgression, the packages of sigmoid cli- noforms to normal regression and the packages of oblique-tangential clinoforms to accretionary forced- regression. Thus, the composite wedges are organized into higher-order, small-scale depositional sequences. If reference is simply made to the stratal architecture, without genetic implications, it may be stated that each small-scale sequence consists of transgressive, highstand and falling-stage systems tracts (Fig. 11). A similar partitioning into minor cycles has been recognized by Somoza et al. (1997) in an Upper Pleis- tocene major progradational wedge of the Gulf of Cadiz, Spain, using high-resolution seismic profiles. The lack of an intervening zone of sediment by- pass between sigmoid and oblique packages of the

shingled units indicates a continuum between the two systems tracts (Fig. 10) (Ainsworth and Pat- tinson, 1994; Naish and Kamp, 1997). This stratal arrangement is different from the model of Plint (1988) (see also Posamentier et al., 1992), in which a temporary increase in the rate of relative sea-level fall leads to a basinward jump in the position of the shoreline and a separation of the falling-stage from the highstand unit. In the study area, the successive shingles of com- posite wedges are physically adjacent to one another without a downstepping pattern, due to episodic rises of coastal onlap between the successive phases of forced regression. The subsidence rate is thought to play a critical role in determining the presence or not of a downstepping pattern. The architecture of S. Mauro composite wedges, and particularly the shin- gled pattern of offlapping deposits occurring above ravinement surfaces, is similar to that described by

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110


Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 101 Fig. 11. Reconstructed and partly idealized

Fig. 11. Reconstructed and partly idealized pattern of stratal architecture of lower composite wedge. Landwards, it pinches out against a growing structure related to the Scandale boundary fault. Progradation is punctuated by minor transgressive events. Clinoforms rapidly evolve from sigmoid to oblique-tangential configuration within individual shingled units (TST D transgressive systems tract; HST D highstand systems tract; FRST D forced regressive systems tract; DWS D downward shift of facies tracts. All labels refer to higher-order cycles within composite wedge) (approximate scale on left).

Dominguez et al. (1992) in the upper Cenozoic shal- low-water depositional systems of Brazil. The term FRWST (forced-regressive wedge sys- tems tract) was originally attributed to forced-regres- sive wedges detached from the HST and occurring as a series of downstepped, disjoined, sharp-based shoreline wedges (Hunt and Tucker, 1992; see also Posamentier et al., 1992). Although our architec- tural setting is different, we do not see good reasons for using another term (we only would simplify the acronym into FRST). Naish and Kamp (1997) suggest ‘regressive systems tract’ (RST) as a more appropriate term for describing forced-regressive de- posits physically attached to the HST and marked by gradational lower contact. We agree with them that this stratal architecture may be a common feature of Plio–Pleistocene sequences. However, we actually share the opinion of Mellere and Steel (1995) that the nature of the lower contact and the attached or detached relationship with respect to the HST are

not the sole key features for defining a forced-regres- sive wedge. Other criteria are regarded as critical, such as the evidence that the shoreline is driven basinwards along a downward-directed trajectory (Helland-Hansen and Gjelberg, 1994), the downward shift of facies in successive clinoform segments, and the progressive basinward coarsening of sediments resulting from the lowering of base level.

5. Can composite wedges be correlated with the oxygen-isotope record?

For the Pleistocene, the history of sea-level fluctu- ations is largely known, since an independent high- resolution proxy of sea-level change is available in the form of the global oxygen-isotope record. Conse- quently, correlations may be established between the different systems tracts and the successive phases of the sea-level cycle, provided that a firm chronostrati-


F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

graphic and depositional framework can be deduced from available bio- and magnetostratigraphic con- straints combined with palaeo-environmental obser- vations (Naish and Kamp, 1997). Data of this quality are available here, at least concerning the lower com- posite wedge. Bio- and magnetostratigraphic data (Rio et al., 1996; and summarized in Fig. 3) demon- strate that this body is bounded at the base and top by two transgressive horizons correlated with MIS 25 and MIS 21, respectively. Thus wedge A may be correlated with the shift from MIS 25 to MIS 22. Indeed, the period of development of the lower com- posite wedge includes interglacial MIS 23. However, the sedimentary expression of this stage cannot be distinguished from other minor transgressions which punctuate the overall regressive pattern of the lower composite wedge. Moreover, this oscillation is only a minor interglacial stage on a longer-term fall. Abbott and Carter (1994) found that MIS 23 was too small to produce a discrete cycle. We may argue, therefore, that the major facies break associated with the base of wedge A correlates with the onset of the MIS 24–22 interval, which is known to correspond to a major transition of the Earth’s climatic system, marking the gradual onset of the glacial–interglacial 100-ky cycles (Prell, 1982; Ruddiman et al., 1989). The physical expression of this transition is a major fall of sea level, possibly enhanced by synsedimentary tectonics, reflected by a change from the muddy sedimentation of the Cutro group to the sand-dominated sedimentation of the S. Mauro group. The abundance of Arctica islandica is particularly significant, as this species is considered a typical element of boreal cold-water faunas entering the Mediterranean during glacial intervals. Correlation of the upper part of the S. Mauro succession, including wedge B, with the oxygen-iso- tope record is comparably much less constrained. Palynological data (R. Bertoldi and L. Caprara, pers. commun., 1998), indicate that the record of MIS 19 is bipartite, in accordance with the indications of low-latitude stack of Bassinot et al. (1994). In addi- tion, the progradation of the overlying sand wedge developed in concomitance with a marked shift to- wards arid vegetational conditions, most probably corresponding to the cooling period from 19.1 to 18.4, and terminates with a horizon showing evi- dence of a mitigation of these conditions together

with physical evidence of a transgression (recorded by a locally preserved fossiliferous lag in a silty, deeply burrowed matrix), which might correlate with substage 18.3 (Fig. 3). Wedge B developed as a prograding unit above this transgressive horizon and is in turn overlain by the deposits of another cycle that have been eroded to a variable extent, and locally completely removed, by a broad incised valley (Figs. 3, 4 and 6). The latter was infilled with braided river deposits, in turn grading upwards into lagoonal and marine deposits; these contain P. lacunosa (Fig. 3), hence are older than late MIS 12, as the extinction of this marker is known to have occurred in the late MIS 12 (Thier- stein et al., 1977). Fluvial deposits represent the first important record of continental sedimentation in the basin. Although the deep erosion at their base was probably enhanced by tectonics, it is tempting to cor- relate this base-level fall with the marked sea-level drop indicated by substage 16.2. Furthermore, the lateral persistence and importance of the transgres- sive deposits overlying the fluvial complex matches quite well with the pronounced and abrupt termina- tion VII at about 0.6 Ma (Fig. 3). It may therefore be concluded that wedge B probably developed during the sea-level fall ending with substage 18.2. Sediments associated with major (fourth-order) unconformities were arguably deposited during the most pronounced deglaciations and interglacial stages (e.g. MIS 21, 19, 17.3, 15.5). The known rapidity of the corresponding transgressions is con- firmed by the general lack of backstepping patterns. Other indirect lines of evidence, independent of the above data, suggest that wedge progradation took place during the stages of sea-level fall. The wedges are identified as strike-fed coastal litho- somes developed in a high-energy, storm-dominated wave climate characterized by a high efficiency of along-shore redistribution of sediments. Actually, frequency of storms tends to be higher during fall and lowstand (Einsele, 1993), and wave-dominated sand bodies pointing to linear sources are regarded by Trincardi and Field (1991), Miall (1997) and Chiocci et al. (1997) as typical of shelf-perched falling-stage and lowstand shelf-margin deposits. The large volumetric predominance of the sand stored within the prograding wedges with respect to sediments involved in other systems tracts is consis-

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110


tent with the statement of Hays et al. (1976), who found that, for Pleistocene 100-ka cycles, the sea- level fall occupied 85–90% of the total cycle period. Actually, Pleistocene successions are volumetrically dominated by falling-stage and lowstand deposits, whereas the available accommodation volume for HST sedimentation is limited (see also Field and Trincardi, 1991; Thorne and Swift, 1991; Chiocci et al., 1997; Somoza et al., 1997; Trincardi and Correggiari, 1999). The progradation potential of highly bioclastic foramol-type units, typical of wedge A, may have been enhanced during the falling stage due to higher opportunity of multiple reworking and redeposition (Henrich et al., 1995; Simone, 1996), provided by enhancement of storm activity during the glacial time (Einsele, 1993; Galloway and Hobday, 1996; Chiocci and Orlando, 1996) and possibly increased rate of carbonate production.

6. Origin of higher-order cycles

A number of hypotheses may be examined for the origin of higher-order cycles. Authigenic mecha- nisms are generally defined as intrinsic to sedimenta- tion in a given depositional system: the typical case is the deltaic setting, where cyclicity may arise from repeated switching of input points of terrigenous sediment. We believe that such a setting, and con- sequently the incidence of authigenic controls, may be ruled out, as we argued above that progradation took place from a line source, and developed in a high-energy wave climate resulting in active along- shore redistribution of sediments and straightening of the coast. In addition, the length of the shore- line was limited by the geometry of the S. Mauro sub-basin, which was a relatively narrow ‘corridor’ bounded by structural highs. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the depositional system was not strictly siliciclastic, as in some shingled units the intrabasinal biogenic sediment is predominant. Although short-term pulsating tectonic events (10–100,000 yr) may significantly affect sedimen- tation processes (Peper et al., 1992), the incidence of such a mechanism is regarded as improbable in the origin of higher-order cycles, considering that facies associations tend to regularly succeed one

another downdip through repeated and predictable

cycles of deposition, and that the amplitude of rela- tive sea-level changes recorded by small-scale cycles

is larger than that of commonly observed tectonically

induced motions. Differential load-driven subsidence was certainly active, but in the absence of growth faults it is difficult to imagine a pulsating effect. Changes in the rate of sediment supply are largely controlled by environmental factors such as re- lief, climate and drainage of the hinterland. These changes generally lead to variations in accommo- dation comparable to those produced by sea-level fluctuations, as stressed by Schlager (1993), and, in principle, transgressive events may result from sig- nificant decreases in sediment supply rates. However, the falling-stage systems tracts of shingled units can- not be produced by changes in supply regime. They require relative falls in sea level that are faster than the long-term subsidence (Schlager, 1993).

Especially during Pleistocene times postdating MIS 25, the onset and developments of glacial con- ditions were characterized by superimposed higher- order perturbations, as indicated by the sawtooth pattern of the relative limbs of the oxygen-isotope

record (e.g. Imbrie et al., 1984). Although it is gen- erally agreed that the oxygen-isotope record is not

a linear function of sea level (Shackleton, 1987), it

is however largely recognized, at least for the last growth of continental ice sheets, that sea-level fall was punctuated by a number of minor stillstands and interstadial reversals, as shown by data of raised marine terraces (Mesolella et al., 1969; Bloom et al., 1974; Dodge et al., 1983) and seismic analysis of some margins (e.g. Somoza et al., 1997). In conclusion, although concomitant causes of different nature may have interacted, it is tempting to ascribe the generation of the small-scale cyclic- ity to minor eustatic changes punctuating long-lived, erratic falling stages, possibly accompanied by cli- mate-driven fluctuations of supply.

7. Factors controlling geometry, internal organization and preservation of prograding units

The sedimentary record of the S. Mauro sub-basin

is clearly influenced by differential structural growth,


F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110 Fig. 12. Outline of stratal architecture

Fig. 12. Outline of stratal architecture of lower composite wedge in NE part of study area, illustrating role of oversteepened shelf gradients generated by syndepositional tectonics and collapse scars in controlling direction of progradation (approximate scale in centre).

causing pronounced variations in accommodation, bathymetry and gradients in the shelf and nearshore areas, and strongly modulating the stratal and facies patterns of the prograding wedges (Figs. 2 and 9c). Actually, the cycles and their component units show thicknesses and degree of preservation depending on variable accommodation space allowed by syn- depositional tectonics. However, they fail to show significantly contrasting sedimentation patterns. Sedimentation took place within the narrow fault- bounded S. Mauro sub-basin. This confined setting, together with a high rate of sediment influx, could explain the large extent of wedge progradation. Abnormal submarine topographic gradients on the flanks of growing folds or near-boundary faults influenced progradation directions (Fig. 12) and con- strained the progradation into rapidly deepening wa- ters, leading to relatively high clinoform dips, up to 16º (Fig. 9d). Steep clinoform angles (up to more than 30º) are reported in the literature as a response to the steep gradient of the substrate, especially in the case of tectonic control of sedimentation (Kamp and Nelson, 1987; Kamp et al., 1988; Obrador et al., 1992; Laptas, 1992; Hanken et al., 1996). Syndepositional tectonics partly controlled the na- ture of the basal contacts (abrupt vs. gradational) of

clinoform packages, sometimes also changing down- lap contacts into contacts of apparent onlap. Tectonic oversteepening of shelf gradients may have also favoured gravity detachment processes, leading to collapse scars on the flanks of growing folds and near boundary faults (Fig. 12). The preservation potential of forced-regressive wedges depends on conditions preventing cannibal- ization of the deposits which formed in the early stages of relative sea-level fall and limiting the depth of erosion due to shoreface retreat during transgres- sive events. Generally, preservation is regarded as possible only where depressions, steep gradients or morphologic steps are present in the shelf surface and subsidence rate is sufficiently high (Trincardi and Field, 1991; Field and Trincardi, 1991; Saito, 1991; Chiocci and Orlando, 1996). In our study area, the preservation of falling-stage units was essentially due to the creation of sediment sinks as a result of the growth of gentle synclines, coupled with a rela- tively high rate of regional subsidence, high rate of sediment influx, and sediment compaction. Another critical factor is represented by the high asymme- try of the relative sea-level curve, with long-lasting, stepwise falls emplacing large volumes of sediment, and extremely rapid rises (Trincardi and Correggiari,

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110


1999). A high rate and short duration of relative sea-level rise during major transgressive episodes, enhanced by a relatively high subsidence rate, cer- tainly prevented strong erosion and reworking, so that most of the prograding units remained below the level of subsequent erosion. Areas affected by the highest subsidence rate could also escape emer- gence at the end of the falling-stage progradation. This for instance may be documented in the ‘Valle di Manche’ section, where a ravinement surface at the top of the lower composite wedge is lacking and is replaced by a conformable drowning surface. Of all the above concurrent causes favouring the preservation of falling-stage and lowstand units the most critical factor is certainly the structural control, as stressed by Chiocci et al. (1997). A comparison of the Pleistocene records of the S. Mauro sub-basin and Wanganui Basin (New Zealand) (Kamp and Turner, 1990; Carter et al., 1991) is illustrative of the importance of this control. Due to the low rates of subsidence of the shelf area, the Wanganui Basin shows an onshore stratigraphic record dominated by shallow-water transgressive and highstand deposits, and characterized by large stratigraphic gaps during the stages of sea-level fall and lowstand. On the other hand, a series of prograding clinoform wedges developed during glacial stages at the shelf margin.

8. Other examples of prograding Plio–Pleistocene units with high bioclastic content in the Mediterranean area

Prograding wedges with similar characteristics to those described above, and particularly with high bioclastic content, have been observed in other sites of the Crotone basin, and are relatively common in the Upper Pliocene to Pleistocene of southern Italy, Sicily and islands in the Mediterranean, particularly in falling-stage and lowstand systems tracts. They have been reported in the Apulian foreland of the Apennines (D’Alessandro and Massari, 1997; Pomar and Tropeano, 1998), in the Caltanissetta basin of Sicily (Catalano et al., 1992; Vitale, 1996; Likorish and Butler, 1996; Vitale, 1998) and in the coastal grabens of Rhodes, Greece (Hanken et al., 1996). In most of the above examples, the wedges are attached to structural highs and prograde with

high-angle clinoforms on to a steep-gradient sub- strate, commonly subject to syndepositional defor- mation. Skeletal material is copiously produced in nearby shoreface platforms and then dispersed, es- sentially by storm-driven offshore-directed flows, and deposited on the prograding front. The units may generally be correlated over large areas, even in settings characterized by high tectonic activity. Similar observations derive from seismic data concerning falling-stage and lowstand downlapping sedimentary units existing along the Mediterranean Sea margins (Trincardi and Field, 1991; Chiocci, 1994; Chiocci and Orlando, 1996; Chiocci et al., 1997; Chiocci and Romagnoli, 1999). These units have consistently offshore-dipping bedding surfaces, a composition dominated by intrabasinal sediments, and a good lateral along-slope continuity, pointing to progradation from a line-source. It is therefore suggested that, in the presence of suitable conditions of high rates of subsidence and sediment supply, prograding units of this kind are a typical element of the falling and lowstand systems tracts of Plio–Pleistocene glacio-eustatic cycles in the Mediterranean area.

9. Conclusions

A number of conclusions stem from the above analysis. (1) The Pleistocene infill of the small S. Mauro sub-basin (southern Italy) shows a clear cyclicity and mostly consists of prograding coastal sand–gravel wedges with clinoform geometry, locally highly bio- clastic (skeletal, foramol-type carbonates), separated by major unconformities recording major transgres- sive episodes. On the basis of bio-magnetostratigra- phy the cycles in the lower part of the succession are correlated to the standard oxygen-isotope record (Rio et al., 1996), and, in spite of active synde- positional tectonics, they can be demonstrated to be genetically related to Pleistocene fourth-order high-amplitude sea-level oscillations. Two of the prograding wedges show composite internal archi- tecture. The older one built out during the major climatic transition and related sea-level fall which occurred from MIS 25 to MIS 22 (Rio et al., 1996). The younger wedge most probably developed dur-


F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110

ing the sea-level fall that culminated with substage


(2) The composite wedges consist of shingled units bounded by seaward-dipping surfaces with a sigmoid clinoform geometry which represent ravine- ment surfaces updip, and conformable flooding sur- faces downdip. Within individual shingles, an early, relatively thin package of sigmoid clinoforms record- ing short-lived progradation accompanied by slight landward encroachment of coastal onlap, is fol- lowed by a volumetrically dominant package of oblique-tangential clinoforms with toplap termina- tions, physically attached to the former, recording the basinward and downward displacement of the shoreline. The wedges are thus organized into high- frequency, small-scale depositional sequences, each comprising transgressive, highstand and falling-stage systems tracts. (3) The prograding units developed in a high- energy wave climate. The dominant processes were represented by highly efficient longshore drift, re- working of sediments in the topset shoreface by re- current storm-driven offshore flows following coastal setup, and gravity resedimentation on to the fore- set slope of prograding bodies. Given this set- ting, we can reasonably assume that accretionary forced regressions occurred along the entire shore- line and originated coastal prograding bodies. Inten- sified storm mixing during glacial periods, and the resulting well-oxygenated conditions over the shelf may have enhanced the rates of productivity and the progradation potential of skeletal, foramol-type carbonates. (4) Concerning the origin of the small-scale cyclicity, authigenic mechanisms linked to shift of sediment input points seem to be excluded by the above setting. Although the concomitance of dif- ferent controlling factors cannot be excluded, it is tempting to ascribe the generation of the small-scale cyclicity to minor eustatic changes punctuating long- lived, erratic falling stages, possibly accompanied by climate-driven fluctuations of supply. (5) The syndepositional growth of synclines, cou- pled with a relatively high regional subsidence, ex- erted a critical influence on the preservation potential of falling-stage units. (6) Comparable Upper Pliocene to Pleistocene shelf-perched and shelf-edge strike-oriented pro-

grading units, commonly with high contents of foramol-type skeletal carbonates, are known in sev- eral Mediterranean areas, both on land and on mod- ern margins, suggesting that they are a typical el- ement of the falling and lowstand systems tracts of Plio–Pleistocene glacio-eustatic cycles in these areas.


Helpful critical suggestions concerning some as- pects of the manuscript were provided by F. Chiocci. To Tim Naish, Fabio Trincardi and an anonymous referee I owe important reviews of the manuscript. I am particularly indebted to A. Miall for his pos- itive comments, editing work, and kind support. S. Castelli is acknowledged for careful photographic work, N. Michelon and F. Todesco for accurate exe- cution of drawings, and Gabriel Walton for revision of the English text. Financial support was provided by the Italian Ministry of University and Scien- tific Research, grant 40%. This is contribution 1 of the National MURST Project ‘Interazioni clima, eu- statismo e tettonica nella sedimentazione: il caso del Quaternario italiano e confronti con altri intervalli ed aree’ (principal investigator D. Rio).

Appendix A

A.1. Bioclastic units of the lower composite wedge

The macrobenthic material of richly bioclastic units in the lower composite wedge consists of three types of components. (i) Mud-related or mixed-related faunal elements predom- inantly disarticulated, broken (commonly with smoothed frac- tures), abraded, and partly bioeroded (Entobia, Maeandropoly- dora, algal borings) or encrusted by celleporiform or laminar bryozoa, red algae or tubeworms. The following species have been recognized: Dentalium rectum, Nucula nucleus, Pecten jacobaeus, Glans aculeata, Cerithium varicosum, Xenophora crispa, Nassarius prismaticus, N. cabrierensis, N. serraticosta, Caryophyllia sp., Pseudamussium septemradiatum, Pododesmus glaucus, Neopycnodonte sp., Astarte sulcata, Glossus humanus, Aporrhais serresianus, Phalium laevigatum, Ranella olearia, Fusinus rostratus, Arca tetragona, Limopsis, Turritella tricar- inata pliorecens, Turritella turbona, Alvania cimicoides, Ga- leodea echinophora, Trophon muricatus, Flabellum sp. Bio- coenotic characters indicate circalittoral and sometimes also epibathyal (Aporrhais serresianus, Ranella olearia) biotopes.

F. Massari et al. / Sedimentary Geology 127 (1999) 85–110


They are regarded as non-coeval, as their preservational state and taphonomic signature indicate exhumation after burial and reworking in a high-energy, shallow-water environment, con-

trasting with their biocoenotic characters indicating circalittoral and sometimes also epibathyal biotopes. They form a skeletal ‘lag’ particularly abundant in close proximity to the Scandale boundary fault, active during sedimentation, where they mark significant erosion of the substrate.

(ii) Parautochthonous components showing variable state

of preservation, fragmentation and abrasion, but usually only slightly or not abraded. The following species have been rec- ognized: Diplodonta apicalis, Pteromeris corbis, Digitaria digi-

taria, Gonilia calliglipta, Goodallia triangularis, Plagiocardium papillosum, Gibbula magus, Echinocyamus pusillus, Chlamys varia, Glycymeris glycymeris, Astarte fusca, Venus casina, Clausinella fasciata. Shells are generally disarticulated, some- times articulated (closed or semi-closed), occasionally encrusted by bryozoa. Elements of this group most probably settled in the infralittoral zone. Although partly exhumed and worked by currents and waves, they are thought not to have been eventually transported outside their original biotope.

(iii) Allochthonous components, typical of infralittoral bio-

coenoses settling on substrates ranging from mixed to sandy and even rocky (e.g. Chama). The following species have been recog- nized: Chama gryphoides, Arctica islandica, Aporrhais pespele- cani, Acanthocardia tuberculata, Spisula subtruncata, Panopea glycymeris, Calliostoma conulus, Homalopoma sanguineum, Bit- tium reticulatum, Rissoa monodonta, Rissoa variabilis, Alvania cancellata, Caecum trachea, Tornus subcarinatus, Monophorus perversus, Chlamys multistriata, Corbula gibba, Cerithium vul- gatum, Trochidae. Skeletals are in all states of abrasion and fragmentation, commonly bioeroded (Entobia, Oichnus) and en- crusted (bryozoa, red algae, polychaetes). These elements, al- though presumably coeval, are thought to have been exhumed and repeatedly reworked in a high-energy environment, and later transported outside their original biotope. Skeletal assemblages appear ecologically mixed, with the imprints of various taphonomic processes, depending on source and history of the shells, reworking and seafloor exposure. An abundance of abraded and fragmented shells attests to initial residence above the fair-weather wave base before the later transport and redeposition. The non-coeval (lag) component is always significant and probably derives from erosion of the highly bioclastic bed packages of Cutro 2. Exhumation and erosion of older elements are also documented by the local presence of reworked early-cemented Thalassinoides burrows bored by Maeandropolydora spp., Caulostrepsis cretacea and small Gastrochaenolites isp., and encrusted by laminar bryozoa.

A.2. Coarse fossiliferous deposits blanketing unconformity surfaces between shingled units of composite wedges

The skeletals show taphonomically complex histories and may include in the same assemblage autochthonous, parautochthonous and allochthonous elements. Evidence of storm-related blanket- ing followed by exhumation and encrustation=bio-erosion may sometimes be found. In one case, rapid burial of Glycymeris

bimaculata, Modiola sericea, Aequipecten opercularis and Arc- tica islandica all with valves unworn, partly still articulated and closed, was followed by exhumation. Later, the exhumed shells were encrusted by epibionts like Anomia ephippium and Podo- desmus patelliformis.


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