, Volume 96, Issue 6, pp 979-1002
Date: 18 Apr 2007

Graben width controlling syn-rift sedimentation: the Palaeogene southern Upper Rhine Graben as an example

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Abstract

Eocene to Early Oligocene syn-rift deposits of the southern Upper Rhine Graben (URG) accumulated in restricted environments. Sedimentation was controlled by local clastic supply from the graben flanks, as well as by strong intra-basinal variations in accommodation space due to differential tectonic subsidence, that in turn led to pronounced lateral variations in depositional environment. Three large-scale cycles of intensified evaporite sedimentation were interrupted by temporary changes towards brackish or freshwater conditions. They form three major base level cycles that can be traced throughout the basin, each of them representing a stratigraphic sub-unit. A relatively constant amount of horizontal extension (ΔL) in the range of 4–5 km has been estimated for the URG from numerous cross-sections. The width of the rift (L f ), however, varies between 35 and more than 60 km, resulting in a variable crustal stretching factor between the bounding masterfaults. Apart from block tilting, tectonic subsidence was, therefore, largely controlled by changes in the initial rift width (L 0). The along-strike variations of the graben width are responsible for the development of a deep, trough-like evaporite basin (Potash Basin) in the narrowest part of the southern URG, adjacent to shallow areas in the wider parts of the rift such as the Colmar Swell in the north and the Rhine Bresse Transfer Zone that delimits the URG to the south. Under a constant amount of extension, the along-strike variation in rift width is the principal factor controlling depo-centre development in extensional basins.