Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 343–355 | Cite as

Sediments of Lake Vens (SW European Alps, France) record large-magnitude earthquake events

  • Jade Petersen
  • Bruno Wilhelm
  • Marie RevelEmail author
  • Yann Rolland
  • Christian Crouzet
  • Fabien Arnaud
  • Elodie Brisset
  • Eric Chaumillon
  • Olivier Magand
Original paper


We studied sediment cores from Lake Vens (2,327 m asl), in the Tinée Valley of the SW Alps, to test the paleoseismic archive potential of the lake sediments in this particularly earthquake-sensitive area. The historical earthquake catalogue shows that moderate to strong earthquakes, with intensities of IX–X, have impacted the Southern Alps during the last millennium. Sedimentological (X-ray images, grain size distribution) and geochemical (major elements and organic matter) analyses show that Lake Vens sediments consist of a terrigenous, silty material (minerals and organic matter) sourced from the watershed and diatom frustules. A combination of X-ray images, grain-size distribution, major elements and magnetic properties shows the presence of six homogenite-type deposits interbedded in the sedimentary background. These sedimentological features are ascribed to sediment reworking and grain sorting caused by earthquake-generated seiches. The presence of microfaults that cross-cut the sediment supports the hypothesis of seismic deposits in this system. A preliminary sediment chronology is provided by 210Pb measurement and AMS 14C ages. According to the chronology, the most recent homogenite events are attributable to damaging historic earthquakes in AD 1887 (Ligure) and 1564 (Roquebillière). Hence, the Lake Vens sediment recorded large-magnitude earthquakes in the region and permits a preliminary estimate of recurrence time for such events of ~400 years.


Homogenites Paleo-earthquakes Lake sediments High altitude SW European Alps 



This work was supported by a Geoazur BQR internal grant and University of Savoie’s AAP-2013-AGRASM2 Grant dedicated to AMS sedimentological applications. Gravity Coring was achieved with the support of the Edytem coring facility. We thank E. Malet and C. Pignol for their support of field logistics during the Dolce Vita campaign, and thank Isabelle Billy for the XRF core-scanner measurements. The authors also thank Nicolas Thouveny for providing access to facilities at the CEREGE paleomagnetic laboratory (Aix-Marseille University), R. Lemée for diatom pictures, J.L. Reiss for discussion of the chronology and J.R. Disnar for organic matter analyses. Thanks to an anonymous reviewer and to Maarten Van Daele for their constructive comments. All “SacA” 14C samples were measured in the Saclay LMC14 laboratory under the auspices of the national program “Artemis.” The authors thank J.P. Dumoulin and T. Goslar from Poznan Radiocarbon Laboratory for help with 14C sample analysis and interpretation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jade Petersen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bruno Wilhelm
    • 1
  • Marie Revel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yann Rolland
    • 1
  • Christian Crouzet
    • 3
  • Fabien Arnaud
    • 4
  • Elodie Brisset
    • 2
    • 5
  • Eric Chaumillon
    • 6
  • Olivier Magand
    • 7
  1. 1.CNRS, IRD, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Géoazur UMR 7329Nice Sophia Antipolis UniversityValbonneFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, IRD, Collège de France, UM 34 CEREGEAix-Marseille UniversityAix-en-Provence cedex 04France
  3. 3.CNRSISTerre Université de SavoieLe Bourget du LacFrance
  4. 4.Laboratoire Environnement Dynamique et Territoire de Montagne, CNRSUniversité de SavoieLe Bourget du LacFrance
  5. 5.UMR 7263IMBEAix-en-Provence cedex 04France
  6. 6.UMR CNRS 7266 LIENSsUniversité de La RochelleLa RochelleFrance
  7. 7.LGGE, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement, CNRSUJF–Grenoble 1GrenobleFrance

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