Growth and geomorphic evolution of the Ustica volcanic complex at the Africa-Europe plate margin (Tyrrhenian Sea)

Mauro Agate, Fabrizio Pepe, Attilio Sulli, Maurizio Gasparo Morticelli, Daniele Spatola, Elisabetta Zizzo, Claudio Lo Iacono, Daniele Spatola, Elisabetta Zizzo, Gaspare Ciaccio, Mauro Agate, Attilio Sulli, Francesco Gargano

Risultato della ricerca: Articlepeer review

1 Citazioni (Scopus)


We present here for the first time a morpho-structural study of the submarine sector of the Ustica volcanic edifice, located in the south-western Tyrrhenian Sea, considered as an inactive volcanic system, middle Pleistocene in age. The main aim of this research study is to unravel the submarine dynamics along the slope sectors of the Ustica volcano, in order to provide new insights on one of the most tectonically active regions of the Central Mediterranean during the Quaternary. We analysed and interpreted an integrated seismo-acoustic data set consisting of multibeam swath-bathymetry, sub bottom profiles, single-channel seismic reflection records, all of them acquired during the last two decades. The seismostratigraphic analysis indicates that the Ustica volcano is composed by a sequence of lava flows and pyroclastic products, whose geometry can be interpreted as the consequence of combined upward growing and northward shifting of the volcanic centers. The mapped geomorphological elements distributed along the submerged slopes were classified based on their specific morphogenetic process. The achieved results reveal that volcanic, tectonic, oceanographic and gravity processes interacted in shaping the complex current physiography of the volcanic edifice, which is characterized by extremely uneven submarine flanks. The northern region is characterized by the widespread occurrence of well-preserved cones, probably linked to the last submarine volcanic activity of the area. Along the eastern sector, elongate gullies and linear furrows locally incise the shelf break and develop downward producing slope failures. Furrows and gullies represent the main conduits for flushing sediments through various types of flows and mass wasting, from the shallow sectors to the bathyal plain. Along the southern and eastern region slope failures processes carve almost totally of the shelf edge and mainly propagate through retrograding collapses. Further on, the southern region is mainly shaped by E-W and N-S trending fault escarpments that may have triggered the largest slope failures of the area. The main results of this study contribute to improve the understanding of the geological processes and geodynamic activity between the Northern Sicily Continental Margin and the Tyrrhenian Basin and represent a baseline for assessing the geo-hazard potential on the Ustica Island.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)1-18
Numero di pagine18
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2021

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