The end of the Messinian salinity crisis: Evidences from the Chelif Basin (Algeria)

Antonio Caruso, Catherine Pierre, Jean Marie Rouchy, Marie-Madeleine Blanc-Valleron, Maria Angela Bassetti, Maria Angela Bassetti, Antonio Caruso

Risultato della ricerca: Articlepeer review

56 Citazioni (Scopus)


How did the Messinian Salinity Crisis end is a matter of intense debate between two opposite concepts i.e., the generalised dilutionevent, the so-called Lago–Mare, followed by the sudden restoration of the marine conditions at the base of the Zanclean, or the earlypartial or complete marine refill that would have happened earlier during the upper Messinian. The Chelif Basin of NorthwesternAlgeria, one of the greatest Messinian marginal basins of the Mediterranean, provides an exceptional opportunity to study in detailhow this major paleoenvironmental change occurred through continuous sedimentary records of the Miocene–Pliocene boundary.Five sections representative of both the central and marginal areas of the Chelif basin were analysed in detail for sedimentology,mineralogy, foraminifera and ostracod assemblages, and stable isotope composition of carbonates. The late Messinian deposits exhibita great lithological variability with predominant clastic deposits (sandstones, siltstones, conglomerates, carbonates) with, in somemarginal areas, large slided masses of lower Messinian (Tripoli Unit) that settled just before the base of the Zanclean. Most sedimentsare either azoic or contain microfossils typical of hyposaline conditions sometimes mixed with benthic foraminifera known to beadapted to stressed environments and even to lacustrine conditions. Fewer types of sediment contain assemblages of planktonicforaminifera, including typical Messinian species, which are thought to be reworked. In contrast, diversified communities of benthicand planktonic foraminifera returned suddenly at the base of the Zanclean; the Messinian–Pliocene transition was marked by anabrupt change of the δ18O values of carbonates from variable but predominantly negative values characteristic of low salinityconditions in the upper Messinian to higher and more stable values in the Zanclean typifying marine conditions. The southern margincontinued, however, to be submitted to large inputs of continental waters. The beginning of the marine inundation was a transitionalperiod with poorly diversified assemblages of planktonic foraminifera and benthic communities tolerant to oxygen deficient bottomconditions; more stable marine conditions with better bottom water ventilation were set up after a lag time which would roughlycorrespond to a precession cycle. Except for the more marginal areas where conglomerates and erosional features are observed, therestoration of marine conditions occurred, without any significant erosion in the more central areas where the contact is well markedby strong burrowing activity by benthic organisms. This indicates the rapid substitution in the basin of brackish waters by marinewaters. Both mixing of these two kinds of waters and permanence of freshwater inputs in the initial stage of the Pliocene transgressionmay explain why the community of marine planktonic foraminifera, introduced by the inflowing Atlantic waters, hardly survived in such unfavourable ecological conditions in the Mediterranean and reached a normal development later when more stable marineconditions settled. This study and the comparison with other sections from both marginal and deep Mediterranean basins confirm thatthe Lago–Mare was a widespread dilution event that affected the whole Mediterranean at the end of the Messinian which was abruptlyinterrupted by the sudden marine inundation at the base of the Zanclean.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)386-417
Numero di pagine31
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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  • ???subjectarea.asjc.1100.1105???
  • ???subjectarea.asjc.1900.1904???
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