Journal of Iberian Geology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 427–442 | Cite as

Quaternary tectonic activity of the São Marcos–Quarteira fault (Algarve, southern Portugal): a case study for the characterization of the active geodynamic setting of SW Iberia

  • J. CabralEmail author
  • R. P. Dias
  • Pedro P. Cunha
  • M. C. Cabral
Research Paper


Tectonic deformation along the São Marcos–Quarteira fault zone affecting lithostratigraphic units ascribed to the Pliocene (the Falésia Sands) and to the Middle to Upper Pleistocene (the Boliqueime Sands and the Barrancosa Sands) is studied at the Boliqueime area, Algarve (southern mainland Portugal). Evidence for this tectonic activity includes brittle (faults and joints) and ductile (drag folds) deformation structures, as well as other structures interpreted as generated by liquefaction and fluidization phenomena. The biostratigraphical study of samples collected from the Boliqueime Sands unit allows to propose a Pleistocene age based upon its content of ostracod species, pointing to a probable Calabrian to Middle Pleistocene (ca. 1.8 Ma to 130 ka) time constraint. This age is now also constrained by optically stimulated luminescence, the K-feldspar post-IRIR290 dating of a sediment sample collected from a faulted sand layer of the Boliqueime Sands having provided a minimum age of 250 ka. This study thus supports the Quaternary activity of that major regional structure, which has the potential to generate an Mw 7+ earthquake with surface rupture, a conclusion that has high relevance for the seismic hazard assessment of the very populated area of influence.


Neotectonics Active faults Seismites Luminescence dating Ostracods Southern Portugal 


En este trabajo se estudia la deformación tectónica a lo largo de la falla Sao Marcos - Quarteira que afecta a diferentes unidades estratigráficas de edades Plioceno (Unidad Falésia Sands) y Plioceno Medio y Superior (unidades Boliqueime Sands y Barracosa Sands) en la zona de Boliqueime (Algarve S Portugal). La evidencia de esta actividad tectónica incluye la aparición de estructuras de deformación frágil (fallas y diaclasas) y dúctil (pliegues de arrastre), así como otras estructuras interpretadas por fenómenos de licuefacción y fluidificación. El estudio bioestratigráfico obtenido por la toma de muestras de la Unidad Boliqueime Sands permite atribuir esta unidad al Pleistoceno en base al contenido de ostrácodos de diferentes especies, lo que apunta a un probable rango de edad que oscila entre Calabriano y Pleistoceno Medio (ca. 1.8 Ma a 130 Ka). Esta unidad ha podido precisarse más mediante el estudio de análisis de luminiscencia estimulada ópticamente. La datación post-IRIR290 en feldespato potásico de una muestra obtenida en un nivel arenoso de la Unidad Boliqueime Sands afectado por fallas proporciona una edad mínima de 250 Ka. Este estudio evidencia la actividad Cuaternaria de la falla Sao Marcos-Quartira, una importante estructura tectónica regional con el potencial de generar terremotos Mw7+ y producir ruptura superficial, una conclusión de gran relevancia para la evaluación de la peligrosidad sísmica en una zona densamente poblada, como es el Algarve.

Palabras clave

Neotectónica fallas activas sismitas datación por luminiscencia, ostracodos Sur de Portugal 



This study was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia - FCT, through projects PTDC/GEO–GEO/2860/2012 (FASTLOAD), UID/GEO/50019/2019 – IDL, 04683/2013 – ICT, and UID/MAR/04292/2013 – MARE. The authors would like to thank Andrew S. Murray, Jan-Pieter Buylaert and Vicki Hansen for the measurements in the Nordic Laboratory for Luminescence Dating (Aarhus University, Risø DTU, Denmark). Telmo Nunes (Unidade de Microscopia, Lisbon University) took the ostracods SEM images and Vera Lopes (Department of Geology, Lisbon University) prepared the ostracods figure for which we thank them. The authors also wish to thank Hector Perea and an anonymous reviewer for the comments and suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript.

Supplementary material

41513_2019_102_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary file1 (DOCX 17 kb)
41513_2019_102_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (1.3 mb)
Figure: Ostracod assemblage identified in Boliqueime sections B(P) and B(P)E (Fig. 4, sites g and f, respectively): a – Limnocythere inopinata (Baird, 1843), LV, external, juvenile, sample B(P)E-5; b-c – Paralimnocythere compressa (Brady & Norman, 1889), RV, external, sample B(P)E-1 and LV, external, juvenile, sample B(P)E-5; d – Paralimnocythere messanai Martens, 1992, LV, external, sample B(P)E-5; e – Candona angulata G. W. Müller, 1900, LV, external, sample B(P)E-1; f – Candona neglecta Sars, 1887, RV, external, sample B(P)E-1; g – Fabaeformiscandona fabaeformis (Fischer, 1851), RV, external, sample B(P)E-1; h – Pseudocandona cf. gr. zschokkei (Wolf, 1920) sensu Danielopol & Hartmann, 1986, LV, external, juvenile, sample B(P)E-4; i – Cypridopsis vidua (O. F. Müller, 1776), C, right view, sample B(P)E-1; j – Cypris cf. falki Janz, 1997, LV, external, juvenile, sample B(P)E-8T; k – Heterocypris incongruens (Ramdohr, 1808), C, right view, juvenile, sample B(P)E-6; l-m – Sclerocypris gr. bicornis (G. W. Müller, 1900), RV, external, juvenile, sample B(P)E-7 and RV, external, juvenile, sample B(P)E-1; n – Zonocypris cf. costata (Vávra, 1897), C, right view, sample B(P)-1; o – Ilyocypris bradyi Sars, 1890, RV, external, sample B(P)E-4; p – Ilyocypris gibba (Ramdohr, 1808), LV, external, juvenile, sample B(P)E-1; q – Darwinula stevensoni (Brady & Robertson, 1870), LV, external, sample B(P)E-8; r – Penthesilenula brasiliensis (Pinto & Kotzian, 1961), C, right view, sample B(P)E-5; s – Vestalenula cylindrica (Straub, 1952), RV, internal, sample B(P)-1; t – Vestalenula pagliolii (Pinto & Kotzian, 1961), RV, external, sample B(P)E-5; u – Vestalenula cf. sp. B (Danielopol, 1980), RV, external, sample B(P)E-6; C carapace; LV left valve; RV right valve; Scale bars = 100 μm (JPG 1298 kb)


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© Universidad Complutense de Madrid 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Cabral
    • 1
    Email author
  • R. P. Dias
    • 2
  • Pedro P. Cunha
    • 3
  • M. C. Cabral
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Instituto Dom Luiz, Faculdade de CiênciasUniversidade de LisbonLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Laboratório Nacional de Energia e GeologiaAmadoraPortugal
  3. 3.Department of Earth Sciences, MARE, Marine and Environmental Sciences CentreUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  4. 4.Departamento de Geologia, Faculdade de CiênciasUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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