Carbonates and Evaporites

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 121–126 | Cite as

The Mediterranean salinity crisis: Alternative hypotheses

  • Robert F. Schmalz


Many ancient salt deposits share characteristics quite different from those observed in salts deposited in Recent coastal salinas and sabkahs: their vast areal extent (up to 5 million km2) and great thickness of contained salt (exceeding 2,000 meters in some cases) in particular. They may exhibit features developed in littoral and supra-tidal saline environments which have been cited as evidence of a shallow origin for the saline giants: laterally-persistent, thin (annual?) laminae, poikiolitic and displacive (nodular) gypsum and anhydrite, chevron crystals, “satin-spar” veinlets, desiccation polygons. However, conditions which aresufficient may not benecessary for the development of a sedimentary feature; to be rigorously interpreted the conditions must be both. Other features of the saline giants suggest a depositional environment unlike any known today. The salts appear to have accumulated very rapidly (1 mm to 1 decimeter/year) in sediment-starved rift or intra-cratonal basins several hundred meters deep. Water depth, at least during part of the depositional phase, approximated the depth of the basin, and surface water was of normal salinity or brackish during intervals. Basin margins are typically ornamented by bioherms and thin platform sediments, stratigraphically high above time-equivalent salts of the basin center.

Parallels between these ancient giant salt deposits and the Messinian salt of the western Mediterranean Basin are striking, and suggest that the depositional environment of the Messinian may have been a deep, brine-filled basin rather than a desert salt pan 2,000 meters below sealevel.


Evaporite Messinian Deep Basin Salt Deposit Basin Floor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert F. Schmalz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesThe Pennsylvania State University University ParkPennsylvania

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