Sedimentary record of Earthquakes and Tsunamis in the Central Mediterranean Sea

Friday, 19 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Alina Polonia1, Stefania Romano1, Stefano Claudio Vaiani2, Giorgio Gasparotto2, Luca Gasperini1 and Carlton HANS Nelson3, (1)CNR Institute for Marine Science, Venice, Italy, (2)University of Bologna, Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche e Ambientali, Bologna, Italy, (3)CSIS, University of Granada, Granada, Spain
The Ionian Sea is a landlocked basin where convergence between Africa and Eurasia produced the emplacement of two opposite verging subduction/rollback systems (i.e. the Calabrian and the Hellenic Arcs). It is one of the most seismically active regions in the Mediterranean Sea and has been struck repeatedly by destructive historical earthquakes, often associated with tsunamis. Slab tearing in a pre-collisional setting is reflected in dynamic topography with high uplift rates of the coastal mountain belts, accompanied with a great sediment discharge to the continental margins. This increases the susceptibility to mass failures implying a strong interplay between active tectonics, seismic shaking, mass flows and tsunami generation.
We investigated the effects of historic earthquakes on abyssal marine sedimentation through the analysis of the turbidite record in tectonically controlled basins. Holocene resedimented units in the deep Ionian Sea represent more than 90% of the total thickness of the sedimentary record. We dated the most recent turbidite sequences using different radiometric methods and the results suggest that turbidite emplacement was triggered by major historic earthquakes and tsunamis recorded in the region (i.e. AD 365 Crete and AD 1169, 1693 and 1908 Italian earthquakes).
Textural, micropaleontological, geochemical and mineralogical signatures reveal that turbidite beds are stacked sandy units, which have different compositions suggesting coeval multiple failures. They are characterized by organic-rich sandy layers, containing a mixture of lithic clasts, plant fragments and displaced benthic foraminifera derived from several sources and bathymetric ranges. Structure and composition of each turbidite unit, combined with geochemical and isotopic analysis on organic carbon, are being refined to unravel the relative contribution of seismic shaking and tsunami wave loading on mass flow processes generation.
Turbidites may be considered as the sedimentary earthquake code within the background pelagic sedimentation. Deciphering this code aims at reconstructing paleo-seismicity during several earthquake cycles, a time span long enough to perform reliable seismic and tsunami hazard assessment in tectonically active coastal regions.