Carbonate deposition and diagenesis in evaporitic environments: The evaporative and sulphur-bearing limestones during the settlement of the Messinian Salinity Crisis in Sicily and Calabria

Antonio Caruso, Catherine Pierre, Jean Marie Rouchy, Blanc-Valleron

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31 Citations (Scopus)


The depositional and diagenetic processes involved in the formation of carbonates in the evaporitic environment of the Messinian Salinity Crisis are investigated in Southern Italy (Sicily and Calabria). Strong differences are observed between the studied sections that reflect specific depositional and diagenetic evolution in the interconnected sub-basins resulting from the syn-sedimentary tectonic fragmentation of the Central Sicilian and Calabrian domains. These carbonates formed diachronously in restricted perched sub-basins between the Tripoli Formation and the hypersaline settings of the MSC. The Calcare di Base (CdB) that can be interbedded with gypsum layers occurs rhythmically at the transition between the upper part of the Tripoli Formation and the massive gypsum, and at places synchronously with the deposition of the Lower Gypsum unit. It deposited initially as primary peloidal and microbial limestones, but their original structure and mineral composition were modified by the superimposition of early to late diagenetic processes. The first diagenetic step was the development of interstitially grown gypsum and halite crystals from trapped saturated brines that locally led to the formation of salt beds. The Sulphur Limestone (SL) resulted from the activity of sulphate reducing bacteria that occurred locally in the deeper parts of the various basins where anoxic bottom waters favoured microbial processes fuelled by biogenic methane and crude oil, and caused the carbonate replacement of gypsum and the formation of native sulphur. The migration of hydrocarbon and H2S-rich fluids caused the epigenetic dissemination of sulphur and a late diagenetic carbonate replacement of the gypsum. Later influxes of continental fresh waters were responsible for the dissolution of the halite crystals and their replacement by sparry calcite. The vugs, formed during both the gypsum/calcite conversion and the halite dissolution, either remained empty or were filled with calcite, celestine, fibrous silica, anhydrite, secondary gypsum, and native sulphur. The initial accumulation of fine-grained carbonate and gypsum sediments was strongly destabilised by volumetric changes resulting from mineral replacements and fluidisation processes. Their superimposition explains the vuggy and boxwork-like textures, in situ brecciation and lateral displacement, which are responsible for the chaotic organisation without necessarily involving basin-scale re-sedimentation in the form of debris flows. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-162
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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