Sedimentary facies evolution in Continental fault-bounded basins formed by crustal extension : the Corinth Basin, Greece
Characteristic half-graben and graben geometries are generated by extensional tectonics. The sedimentary infill to such basins reflects their structural evolution. The actively extending basins of central Greece have provided an opportunity to study the mechanisms that control sediment distribution and the resultant facies patterns and geometries produced in such environments. The modern and precedent Neogene to Quaternary sediments studied, and their controlling processes, provide predictive templates for the analysis of controls acting upon ancient extensional basin fills. On a basinwide scale, facies patterns are controlled by the geometry of major basin-controlling normal faults and by the structural level of the basin - determining alluvial, lacustrine or marine environments. Increments of movement on normal faults tilt and vertically displace the depositional surface, producing facies responses in terms of fluvial/submarine channel avulsion or preferential migration into topographic lows, lake or sea coastline advance or retreat across the depositional slope, and the progradation of clastic wedges off fault scarps and uplifted areas. The time-averaged product in the stratigraphic record is typically of clinoforms developed preferentially against basin margin faults and axial channel systems concentrated in the structurally constrained depocentre(s). Such gross morphologies are seen in the Lower Pliocene early rift history of the Corinth asymmetric graben; conglomerate-dominated fan deltas and alluvial fans prograded laterally into the basin. The progradation of an ophiolite-derived, fluvio-deltaic system along the basin axis illustrates the competition of sediment supply rates with tectonic subsidence rates in determining facies geometries. A number of other controls on sediment distribution are variously important through time within extensional basins, in addition to structuration and sediment supply rates (itself a function of hinterland litho-type and structural evolution). These include eustatic and climatic variation and compactional subsidence rates. The Corinth Isthmus has been studied with the aim of establishing the interaction of concurrent tectonic and eustatic relative base-level changes. Computer-modelling of the migration of a coastline through theoretical stratigraphic sections illustrates the effects of varying rates of change of sea-level, tectonic subsidence (or uplift) and deposition with time. Incorporation of the global sea-level curve for the Late Quaternary into such models reasonably predicts observed facies geometries in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene of the Isthmus. U-series disequilibrium dating of corals from the Corinth Canal area has constrained transgressive beach sub-sequences as reflecting c. 100,000 year wavelength eustatic cycles. After subtraction of depositional levels constrained in time and space against the sea-level curve, an average net uplift rate is derived for the central Isthmus of more than 0.3m per 1000 years. The areal distribution of Late Pleistocene marine facies in the southern Corinth Basin is principally controlled by the structural form and evolution at time of deposition. Subsequent tilt block faulting in an alluvial environment illustrates how intrabasinal fault block morphologies may generate axial and lateral sediment transport systems analagous to those on a basinwide scale. The competition between process rates is emphasized. Three- dimensional sedimentary facies patterns within evolving syn-rift basins are shown to be dependent upon the interaction of three principal factors: a) the rate of tectonic displacements through time, on both basinwide and local fault block scales, b) the rate of sea-level change through time (or lake-level change, whether determined by tectonic or climatic means), and c) the rate of deposition at any locality, itself a function of hinterland structure and lithology, climate and depositional geometries.