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Cenozoic sedimentary dynamics of the Ouarzazate foreland basin (Central High Atlas Mountains, Morocco)

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Cenozoic continental sedimentary deposits of the Southern Atlas named "Imerhane Group" crop out (a) in the Ouarzazate foreland basin between the Precambrian basement of the Anti Atlas and the uplifted limestone dominated High Atlas, and (b) in the Aït Kandoula and Aït Seddrat nappes where Jurassic strata detached from the basement have been thrust southwards over the Ouarzazate Basin. New biostratigraphic and geochronological data constraining the final Eocene marine regression, the characterization of the new "Aït Ouglif Detrital Formation" presumed to be of Oligocene age, and the new stratigraphic division proposed for the Continental Imerhane Group clarify the major tectonogenetic alpidic movements of the Central High Atlas Range. Four continental formations are identified at regional scale. Their emplacement was governed principally by tectonic but also by eustatic controls. The Hadida and Aït Arbi formations (Upper Eocene) record the major Paleogene regression. They are composed of margino-littoral facies (coastal sabkhas and fluviatile systems) and reflect incipient erosion of the underlying strata and renewed fluvial drainage. The Aït Ouglif Formation (presumed Oligocene) had not been characterized before. It frequently overlies all earlier formations with an angular unconformity. It includes siliciclastic alluvial deposits and is composed predominantly of numerous thin fining-upward cycles. The Aït Kandoula Formation (Miocene–Pliocene) is discordant, extensive, and represents a thick coarsening-upward megasequence. It is composed of palustro-lacustrine deposits in a context of alluvial plain with localized sabkhas, giving way to alluvial fans and fluviatile environments. The Upper Conglomeratic Formation (Quaternary) is the trace of a vast conglomeratic pediment, forming an alluvial plain and terraces. The second and third formations correspond to two megasequences engendered by the uplift of the Central High Atlas in two major compressive phases during late Oligocene and Miocene–Pliocene times. These two geodynamic events were separated by a tectonically calm phase, materialized by palustro-lacustrine sedimentation (Görler et al. 1988). Tectono-sedimentary analysis of the two megasequences shows that the basin structure and depositional processes were controlled by the compressive tectonic context generated by the collision of North Africa and Iberia in Tertiary times (Jacobshagen et al. 1988). The Quaternary Formation was apparently controlled by a tectonic continuum and by climatic variations.

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El Harfi, A., Lang, J., Salomon, J. et al. Cenozoic sedimentary dynamics of the Ouarzazate foreland basin (Central High Atlas Mountains, Morocco). Int J Earth Sci 90, 393–411 (2001).

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