The ‘Walled Basin’ Model of the Transylvanian Basin: Geodynamic Implications



In Central Asia several ‘walled basins’  (Carroll et al., 2010) exist which are recording thick lacustrine to alluvial deposits through geological times, and are actually showcasing the various types of strike-slip basins, in nature. Sedimentation is starting in some basins, like in the Junggar Basin, already in the Late Permian (Hendrix et al., 1992), in others during the Mesozoic (Fig. 28, 29). In western China strike-slip basins are contractional in origin, while in eastern China basins are younger pull-apart basins; the interior of these basins practically had stayed undeformed, only basin margins evolved into high to very high orogenic build-ups (Carroll et al., 2010). According to Carroll, many terms have been used to describe these basins ‘broken foreland’, ‘cornered foreland’,  ‘Chinese-type basin’, ‘collisional successor basin’.

If we recall, such walled basins can be seen in the Mediterranean area, as well, like in the case of the South Adriatic basin.

The Neogene Transylvanian Basin it is also a good candidate, in terms of basin mechanism, quality of sedimentary infill. It shows  very similar ‘walled basin’ margin character in all directions, a lacustrine-alluvial sedimentary infill, and it was called for a long time as a back-arc basin, assuming the Roydenian tectonic model. Herein, we propose to adopt the ‘walled basin’ model for the Neogene Transylvanian basin because many of the characteristics traditionally considered as mysterious  are getting a robust explanation, like 1) basin geometry, 2) sediment infill, 3) subsidence rates, 4) thickening of the lithosphere, 5) low heat flux, 6) uplift mechanism of the Southern Carpathians, 7) Peri-Carpathian basin geometry and many others that are going to be presented  in a separate paper.

We need to note, that the geodynamic evolution of the Southern Carpathians was generally neglected from the geodynamic models, because did not really fit into the back-arc model of the Pannonian-basin.  Secondly, it is obvious that the highest mountains of the Earth should share something in common regarding their origin, and geodynamic history. The Tian Shan Mts. are showing peaks of 7000m, the Caucasus has peaks above 5000m, the Atlas is rising above 4000m, the Alps have peaks of 3000m, and finally the highest peaks of Romania are found in the Southern Carpathians (above 2500m). All these very  high and relatively narrow mountain ranges are bounded by steep transpressional fault systems, just as in the case of the Southern Carpathian Mts.

Published in: Kovács, J.Sz., 2015 (in press), Elements of Global Strike-Slip Tectonics: a Quasi-Neotectonic Analysis, Journal of Global Strike-Slip Tectonics, v1., Szekler Academic Press, Sfintu Gheorghe.

Accommodation Space Budget in the Mediterranean Area During the Messinian Salinity Crisis


Recent shoreline  with uplifted Pleistocene sediments in Antalya, Turkey. History has recorded that the Manavgat River was navigable several centuries ago. While Venice is tectonically subsiding, Manavgat is rising.

The motor of basin opening mechanisms and subsequent subsidence in the Mediterranean Basin is best described in terms of strike-slip tectonics, related to the plate-velocity contrast of the African and Eurasian Plates during their eastward journey. In this approximation, the Mediterranean area represents an intercontinental mega-shear zone,  obviously with numerous transtensional zones, which evolved into isolated, small subbasins (Martínez-Garcia et al., 2013), featuring transform margins Tari et al. (2012), internal strike-slip zones (our experience in the Pantelleria Island area), and several push-up ranges, which in many parts of the Mediterranean area evolved into orogens, like in the case of the Atlas, Apennine, Alpine, Carpathian orogens. This continental scale tectonic evolution was enabled by several microplates and even nanoplates, in GSST wording.

The Atlas Microplate is found at the northern margin of the African Plate. Besides the High Atlas Nanoplate, which underlies the Atlas orogene, it includes two other, smaller nanoplates, the Gibraltar and Sicily Nanoplates. This microplate shows particularly intense strike-slip tectonics, and at the same time, we believe that it holds the main responsibilities for the accommodation space budget in the Mediterranean area, what has as a direct consequence that strike-slip tectonics should be considered as the main controlling factor for the Messinian Salinity Crisis, obviously exploiting the existing background climate factors.

According to Salé et al. (2012), the Mediterranean basins are showing very similar depositional trends and sedimentary architecture. They found however that the Late Messinian cyclicity of non-marine and fully marine sediments is related to climate changes, admitting that cyclicity is enhanced by tectonic activity in their study area, which is located over the Serrata-Carboneras strike-slip zone in Spain.

Looking after clues in the sedimentary record, we found that Late Messinian sediments are evidencing sedimentary intervals described as seismicites (Fortuin and Dabrio, 2008) and explosive fluid expulsion events (Bertoni and Cartwright, 2015).

In conclusion, it is more likely that causes of the Messinian Salinity Crisis should be attributed to the joint management of the Mediterranean accommodation space budget. Whatever is the subsidence of the individual subbasins, the total volume of available sea water counts in desiccating subbasins. It should be also noted that not every subbasin contains Messinian Salt, just those which met the desiccation criteria of the communicating vessels (subbasins).

Given the strike-slip related deformations recorded by the Atlas orogene, it is not hard to believe that the Atlas Microplate, certainly accompanied by the other microplates and orogens involved,  had a significant impact on  driving the vertical basin-floor oscillation, and ultimately changes in basin volume, all orchestrated by the regional strike-slip stress field.

Published in: Kovács, J.Sz., 2015 (in press), Elements of Global Strike-Slip Tectonics: a Quasi-Neotectonic Analysis, Journal of Global Strike-Slip Tectonics, v1., Szekler Academic Press, Sfintu Gheorghe.