Syndepositional Tectonics and mass-transport deposits control channelized, bathymetrically complex deep-water systems (AíNSA depocenter, Spain)

Daniel E. Tek, Miquel Poyatos-Moré, Marco Patacci, Adam D. McArthur, Luca Colombera, Timothy M. Cullen, William D. McCaffrey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The inception and evolution of channels in deep-water systems is controlled by the axial gradient and lateral confinement experienced by their formative flows. These parameters are often shaped by the action of tectonic structures and/or the emplacement of mass-transport deposits (MTDs). The Arro turbidite system (Aínsa depocenter, Spanish Pyrenees) is an ancient example of a deep-water channelized system from a bathymetrically complex basin, deposited in an active tectonic setting. Sedimentologic fieldwork and geologic mapping of the Arro system has been undertaken to provide context for a detailed study of three of the best-exposed outcrops: Sierra de Soto Gully, Barranco de la Caxigosa, and Muro de Bellos. These locations exemplify the role of confinement in controlling the facies and architecture in the system. Sedimentologic characterization of the deposits has allowed the identification of fifteen facies and eight facies associations; these form a continuum and are non-unique to any depositional environment. However, architectural characterization allowed the grouping of facies associations into four depositional elements: i) weakly confined, increasing-to-decreasing energy deposits; ii) progradational, weakly confined to overbank deposits; iii) alternations of MTDs and turbidites; iv) channel fills. Different styles of channel architecture are observed. In Barranco de la Caxigosa, a master surface which was cut and subsequently filled hosts three channel stories with erosional bases; channelization was enhanced by quasi-instantaneous imposition of lateral confinement by the emplacement of MTDs. In Muro de Bellos, the inception of partially levee-confined channel stories was enhanced by progressive narrowing of the depositional fairway by tectonic structures, which also controlled their migration. Results of this study suggest that deep-water channelization in active tectonic settings may be enhanced or hindered due to: 1) flow interaction with MTD-margin topography or; 2) MTD-top topography; 3) differential compaction of MTDs and/or sediment being loaded into MTDs; 4) formation of megascours by erosive MTDs; 5) basin-floor topography being reset by MTDs. Therefore, the Arro system can be used as an analog for ancient subsurface or outcrop of channelized deposits in bathymetrically complex basins, or as an ancient record of deposits left by flow types observed in modern confined systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-762
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Sedimentary Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


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