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org Geology



Dr. Maria-Lidia Nuu-Dragomir1

Institute of Geodynamics of Romanian Academy, Romania

The Permian sedimentary succession exposed in Sirinia Basin (South Carpathians,
Romania) provides a record of mixed siliciclastic-volcanic rocks. The siliciclastic rocks
are represented by conglomerate, sandstone and claystone, which are grouped into nine
lithofacies (Gmm/mg, St, Sh, Sm, Sr, Fl, Fr, P) occur in a predictable order as repeated
fining-upward cycles. Groups of associated facies are arranged into five distinct
architectural elements (gravel channels, ribbon-channel, sandy channels, laminated sand
sheets and overbank deposits), which is consistent with a fluvial origin of the
succession. The types of architectural elements present and their relationship to each
other demonstrate that Permian succession from Sirinia Basin preserves a record of a
meandering or a braided river. The entire Permian sedimentary succession from Sirinia
Basin has developed into an extensional tectonic realm, where the sedimentation was
controlled by two major factors: (i) a tectonically active source area, which provided
Precambrian metamorphic rocks and Upper Carboniferous siliciclastic rocks, and (ii) an
active volcanic source, which supplied a large amount of rhyolitic rock-fragments to the
coarse-grained sediments. The petrographic diversity of coarse-grained sediments
implies that sedimentary sequences were accumulated simultaneously with the
development of Sirinia basin.
Keywords: fluvial, meandering river, Sirinia Basin, South Carpathians

Sirinia Basin represents an intra-continental extensional basin ([1] and [2]), which was
shaped as a result of the Alpine tectonic evolution and deformation. During the
Permian, periods of intense volcanism occurred simultaneous with siliciclastic
sedimentation in continental environments.
Sirinia basin made the subject of several previous studies, many of them focusing on
geotectonics ([3], [4], [5], [6]), volcanism ([2], [7], [8]) and paleontological issues ([1],
[9], [10]).
However, there are no detailed studies on the evolution of the Permian facies
association within the siliciclastic sequences of Sirinia basin. The aim of the present
study is to try to fill this gap, by presenting a detailed sedimentological analysis of the
Permian outcrops exposed along Danube River and its tributaries.

Sirinia Basin is located in the southwestern part of the South Carpathians (Fig. 1). A
result of the extensional tectonics, Sirinia Basin represents a Variscan molasse-type
cover [4], which overlies Danubian metamorphic units [11]. The stratigraphic
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succession begins with a continental-lacustrine accumulation followed by widespread

volcanic activity.

Fig. 1 Geological map of the southern part of Sirinia basin and legend (modified after
[2]): 1. Mesozoic undifferentiated deposits; Permian - 2. Massive rhyolitic rocks (domes
and lava flows) a. subaqueous, b. subaerial; 3. Rhyolitic volcaniclastic rocks: a.
Hyaloclastic breccias and associated deposits, b. Subaerial and Surtseyan pyroclastic
deposits and associated rocks; 4. Lacustrine limestone; 5a. Terrigenous fluvial-
lacustrine deposits, b. Intra-volcanic fluvial deposits; Carboniferous - 6. Trachytes; 7.
Siliciclastic deposits with coal; Paleozoic - 8. Mafic and ultramafic rocks; Upper
Precambrian - 9. Poly-metamorphic rocks (Danubian domain). The red frames shows
the location of the studied areas.

The Upper Carboniferous deposits consist of grey-blackish siliciclastic rocks with coal
layers [8], occasionally associated with basaltic rocks recently identified as having
trachytic composition [2] and rarely carbonate rocks [1].
Unconformably following onto the Carboniferous rocks, the Lower Permian deposits
consist of an initial siliciclastic sequence, followed by an association of rhyolitic
volcanic and volcanoclastic deposits (e.g. [2]).
The Lower Jurassic to Upper Cretaceous marine deposits are discordantly covering both
the post-Variscan sequences and the metamorphic basement complexes [3, 12].

In order to describe and analyze the sedimentary evolution of the Permian siliciclastic
rocks, the technique of facies analysis was applied to the outcrops along the Povalina
(Fig. 2A), Starite (Fig. 2B) and Ielieva (Fig. 2C) valleys. These techniques considered
the textural parameters of the litons (granulometry and morphometry of clasts), the
thickness of beds and, finally, the sedimentary structures and sedimentary cycles. The
division of facies has been made according to the [13] and [14] nomenclature and has
taken into consideration the grain size combined with sedimentary structures.

2 Geology

In studied outcrops, the facies variation could be followed, on both vertical and
horizontal (Starite sequence).


Sedimentary lithofacies
Four major lithofacies have been distinguished in the Permian siliciclastic succession,
which in turn were separated intro nine facies on the basis of grain-size and sedimentary
structures (Table 1).
The Permian siliciclastic succession is dominated by matrix-supported conglomerates
and massive sandstones in the western part of the basin (Ielieva sequence), and massive
sandstones, as well as red mudstones, in the eastern part (Starite and Povalina
Conglomerates are represented by fine to coarse oligo-/polimictic matrix-supported
conglomerates. The beds may be massive (Fig. 3.1, 3.3 and 3.5) or may show normal to
inverse grading (Fig. 3.4). The conglomerates are from poorly to well sorted and are
supported by a sandy matrix. The ratio matrix is variable throughout the sequence, but
never exceed ~20%. Commonly, the clasts form is rounded to subrounded in all
sequences, but on Starite sequence the volcanic clasts displays mainly subangular form
in the first five sections, and mostly rounded form in the last section. The clasts size
ranges from a few millimeters up to ~20 cm within the Povalina sequence. The clasts
have various origins, from almost exclusively volcanic (rhyolite, tuffs) within the
Ielieva sequence, to mixed volcanic (rhyolite, basalt) - metamorphic (quartzite, gneiss,
phillite) within the Starite sequence, and exclusively mixed metamorphic-sedimentary
(grayish sandstones) within the Povalina sequence. The beds thickness varies between
0.1 and 1.6 m. Usually, conglomerates occur as ribbon or lens-shaped bodies with sharp
undulating boundaries or scour surfaces (Fig. 3.5).
Sandstones are represented by red to yellowish fine to coarse-grained sandstones with
beds thickness ranging between 0.1 and 1.5 m. The beds display mainly massive
structure (Fig. 3.5), but trough cross-bedding, parallel laminated, and ripple cross-
laminations were observed. Regularly, the beds are between 0.1 and 0.5 m, but can
reach up to 1.5 m. Bioturbations and calcite nodules have been identified only in
massive sandstones, within Povalina and Starite sequences. Sandstones occur as tabular
or wedge-shaped bodies with sharp undulating or sharp irregular boundaries.
Mudstones are represented by massive red beds. It appears as tabular bodies with
thicknesses varying between 0.1 and 2.0 m, and sharp undulating boundaries. Both,
bioturbations and carbonate nodules have been found in the mudstones from Povalina
and Starite sequences. Rarely, mudstones appear interbedded with parallel laminated
siltstones and massive fine sandstones, in which case the thickness can reach up to 0.4
Limestone is encountered only in Povalina and Starite sequences. The beds exhibit
tabular or lenticular forms with thicknesses between 0.6 and 3 m (Fig. 3.2). The beds
boundaries are of sharp undulating type.

Lithofacies associations
The nine sedimentary lithofacies recognized in Permian succession of Sirinia basin are
interpreted in terms of the model of alluvial processes (in channel and floodplain
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settings) proposed by [14]. They were grouped in two facies associations corresponding
to channelized and non-channelized alluvial deposits [15]. Within these two facies
associations, five architectural elements are recognized with the aid of textures,
sedimentary structures, geometry and vertical arrangements (Fig. 2 and Table 1).


4 Geology

Fig. 2 Detailed sedimentary logs showing the main lithologies, facies and facies
associations encountered in Povalina (A), Starite (B) and Ielieva (C) locations. The
extensional normal faults system that crosses the 300 m long outcrop from Starite (B
bottom) has imposed logs for each segment, since no correlation was visible. The red
lines represent extensional normal faults and yellow lines symbolize lithological
column. The grey arrow represents the general trend of the lithofacies associations. In
circle is given detailed facies photo.
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Table 1. Summary of sedimentary facies. Facies may occur only once, or be repeated
several times along the vertical succession.

Lithofacies Description
(after [14, 16])
Fine to Massive and inverse to normal Deposition from
coarse graded beds, matrix-supported debris flow with

matrix- with sub-angular to rounded variable regimes

Gmm supported clasts. Clasts size varies from (high to low
Gmg gravel few mm to ~20 cm. Thickness of strength).
0.1 to 0.6 m. Frequently,
undulating or sharp irregular
(scour) boundaries.
St Fine to Tabular bodies up to 1 m Straight to sinuous
coarse displaying trough cross-bedding bed-forms within a
sand and sharp undulating top and channel setting
diffuse base.
Tabular bodies showing parallel Deposition from
lamination and sharp boundaries. upper-stage plane
Fine to Thickness of 5 to 15 cm. bed transport
Sh coarse within a channel

sand setting or
Tabular bodies with no internal Deposits of
structure. Beds up to 1.5 m thick, sediment gravity
Medium to
rarely bioturbated. Carbonate flow or rapid
Sm coarse
nodules can be present forming deposition from
poorly defined horizons. Sharp suspensions during
undulating boundaries floods.
Sr Fine to Very thin tabular bodies, with Bedload from
coarse solitary ripple cross-lamination confined low
sand and diffuse boundaries. regime flows.
Up to 1.2 m of interbedded
red/grey mudstone, sandstones
Mud fine and lower amounts of siltstones.
sand, silt They display fine laminations or
Deposition from

massive structures, and sharp

suspension during
planar boundaries.
waning flows
Thickness of 0.1 to 2.0 m and no
within a floodplain
internal structure. Bioturbation
is low to moderate. Carbonate
Fr Mud
nodules can be present.
Undulating or sharp irregular
6 Geology

Limestone Tabular or lenticular bodies, with Carbonate

no internal structure. May deposition in
contain fresh-water bivalve shallow water
P Limestone
remains and fish scales (Fig. bodies preserved
3.2). from terrigenous

Channelized alluvial architectural elements

Gravel channel-fill deposits (FA1), characterized by a ribbon or lens-shaped geometry,
are encountered throughout the sedimentary basin, but the individual facies varies along
the Permian sedimentary succession (Fig. 2). Povalina sequence is represented by
massive conglomerates (Gmm), as a main channel-fill. Both Starite and Ielieva
sequences dominantly consist of interbedded massive (Gmm) and/or graded (Gmg)
conglomerates, massive sandstones (Sm) and massive red mudstones (Fr). Also, a
combination of massive (Gmm) and graded (Gmg) conglomerates, in trough cross-
bedded (St) or/and horizontally laminated (Sh) or ripple-laminated (Sr) sandstones and
massive red mudstones (Fr), can be observed. Furthermore, Ielieva sequence contains
two or three multistorey massive-bedded channel-fill bodies. The channel-fill deposits
thicknesses range between 2.0 and 10.5 m, and fining-upward tendencies are observed
in all sequences. Sharp undulating or scour surfaces are developed both at the base and
top of the beds. Clay chips have been observed occasionally in conglomerate layers,
which may suggest discharge fluctuations and reworking of mudstone laminae. In some
cases, bioturbations were observed in both sandstone and mudstone layers.
In case of Ielieva and Povalina sequences, the dominance of coarse and massive beds
and the lack of lateral accretion surfaces indicates transportation by high-strength
currents [14] and suggests the presence of low sinuosity, fixed channels [17]. The
gradual vertical reduction in grain size indicate progressive reduction in discharge
during channel filling [14]. In some cases (Starite sequence), mudstones occur at the
top of the channels, pointing to relatively low energy of processes and sedimentation
rate. The geometry of channel-fill deposits and the presence of the scoured surfaces
associated with the conglomerates indicate deposition as a channel lag [18].
Ribbon channel-fill deposits (FA2) sitting within alluvial plain deposits are confined to
the distal region of Starite sequence (Fig. 2B), lacking completely from Ielieva and
Povalina sequences. Compositionally these deposits comprise an association of massive
conglomerates (Gmm) and massive sandstones (Sm), with sharp undulating
boundariers. The facies association thicknesses range between 1.5 to 2 m.
Ribbon channel-fill deposits can be interpreted as being laterally stable fixed channels
[19] resulted by vertical aggradation from bedload transport with short-term changes in
flow regimes [14]. Also, it may represent the product of complete channel abandonment
in favor of a new course following an avulsion event, in which discharge is diverted to
adjacent parts of the floodplain ([15] and [20]).
Sandy channel-fill deposits (FA3) are commonly in Starite sequence (Fig. 2A), and
rarely or lacking entirely in the other two sequences. Such deposits are tabular or
wedge-shaped, with thicknesses vary from 2.0 to 5.0 m and sharp undulating boundaries
or rarely scour surfaces. Due to the presence of the extensional normal faults system, the
lateral extension can be traced only on several meters. These deposits, exhibiting a
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fining-upward trend, are composed of thick massive sandstones (Sm), which are
overlain by fine-grained floodplain sediments (Fl and Fr). Towards the terminal part of
the sequence, thin levels of massive conglomerates (Gmm) are included. Also, small
stacked sets up to 0.7 m thick arranged into coarsening-upward packages, can be
observed (Fig. 2B). These sets are characterized by fine-grained floodplain sediments
(Fl and Fr), followed by massive conglomerates (Gmm), or massive sandstones (Sm)
which pass into through cross-bedded (St) sandstones or inverse graded conglomerates
(Gmg). Carbonate nodules within massive sandstone or mudstone beds may be
Sandy channel-fill deposits originated in an active channel that traversed the distal
alluvial plain. The tabular geometries and overall massive nature of the sandstone
bodies suggests that deposition was rapid, either from sediment gravity flows, or from
suspension during waning flows [16]. The abundant sharp upper bounding surfaces
indicate that the flow waned quickly [21].

Fig. 3. Examples of lithofacies observed in Permian sedimentary succession: (1) Facies

Gmm - polimictic matrix-supported conglomerate from Povalina valley, with
metamorphic clasts and reddish sandy matrix, with no internal structures; (2) Facies P -
massive reddish limestone; and detailed thin section photo showing a few micritic
peloids (dark brown), fresh-water bivalve remains and fish scales; (3) Facies Gmm -
conglomerates from Starite location with both metamorphic and volcanic clasts and
yellowish sandy matrix; (4) Facies Gmm and Gmg - matrix-supported conglomerate
with sharp irregular base and sharp top, followed by normal graded microconglomerate;
(5) Facies Sm, Sr and Gmm - massive or ripple cross-laminated coarse grained
sandstones with sharp undulating boundaries; at top, oligomictic matrix-supported
conglomerate with scour surface from Ielieva valley.

Non-channelized alluvial architecture

Laminated sand sheets (FA4) include an association of massive and parallel laminated
(Sm and Sh) sandstones, which occur as alternating sets with diffuse boundaries, or
massive sandstones (Sm) interbedded with red mudstones (Fr). These elements build up
sheet-like bodies that are ~3 m thick in Ielieva sequence and up to 4.5 m thick on
Starite sequence. Carbonate nodules may be observed within massive sandstone or
8 Geology

mudstone beds. Rarely, bioturbations have been found along the upper boundaries of the
massive sandstones beds. Fining or coarsening-upward trends are locally present in the
interbedded sandstone and mudstone associations (Fig. 2).
Laminated sand sheets were ascribed to the diffuse flow of unchannellized floodwaters
across the alluvial floodplain [22]. The dominance of massive structure in suggest a
rapid deposition from suspension during floods [14]. The deposition of coarse-
sediments took place under upper-flow regime, while the fine-sediments characterize
the lower-flow regime.
Overbank deposits (FA5) include massive and laminated mudstone/siltstone/fine
sandstone (facies Fl), massive red mudstones, within which carbonate nodules (facies
Fr), and red limestone (P) may be embedded. The proportion of each facies varies
throughout the Permian sedimentary succession. On Povalina sequence, there are
encountered red limestone and massive red mudstones with carbonate nodules. On
Starite sequence, there can be observed only 0.5 m of massive sandstones, siltstone and
mudstone belonging to the Fl facies, while on Ielieva sequence there also occur
alternations of varying proportion of red mudstones (Fr). These deposits commonly
exhibit a tabular geometry, ranging from 1.0 to 4.3 m in thickness.
Overbank deposits resulted from unchannellized flow when discharge exceeded the
bank-full capacity of the channel network ([15] and [20]). During such events, rapid
flow expansion and subsequent energy loss resulted in widespread deposition on the
alluvial floodplain [20]. The development of carbonate nodules of early diagenetic
origin within these sediments indicate extensive periods of non-deposition.

The general appearance of the sedimentary successions combined with the lithological
features lead us to the conclusion that the depositional environment was a braided
(Povalina and Ielieva sequences) or meandering (Starite sequence) river [14], from
which there have resulted the alluvial gravel or/and sandy channels and alluvial
floodplain bodies. The Povalina sequence exhibits a coarsening-upward tendency
towards the terminal part, which indicates a progradation from fine-grained floodplain
deposits to coarse-grained channel deposits, indicative of successive flows arriving on a
low-energy floodplain [23]. The flat bedded gravels formed by vertical accretion
suggest deposition at high water stages (e.g. [24]). The limestone records may represent
precipitation from ephemeral lakes occurring at the distal fringes of sheetflood alluvial
units (e.g. [14]). The Starite sequence is dominated by fining-upward gravel or sandy
channel deposits, in which the Gm and Sm facies is usually associated with Fr facies.
All these suggest a gravel-sand meandering river [25]. Towards the top of the
sedimentary sequence, there is an coarsening-upward tendency reflected in the
migration from channel deposits to laminated sand sheets, results of the multiple flood
event on the alluvial plain. The "regressive" trend (passing from fine-grained floodplain
to coarse-grained channel-fill deposits) displayed by Povalina and Starite sequences
(Section VI) may suggest a period of slow tectonic movement of Sirinia basin during an
incipient phase of development, or a relaxation and adjustment following rapid tectonic
uplift of the source area [16]. The 35 m thick Ielieva displays a fining-upward general
trend. The flat bedded gravel dominance reflects the deposition from a braided river
with low sinuosity and high energy currents [24]. The coarse-grained channel fill, in
which Gmm and Gmg facies are associated with Sm, St or Fr facies, suggests gradual
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diminishing of flow regimes and it may also reflect a systematic migration of the
channels [16]. Towards the top of each sequence the flow regime changes to a fine-
grained meandering river [14] in which alluvial plain deposits were accumulated.
The petrographic diversity of clasts from coarse-grained clastic sediments suggests that
the Permian alluvial deposits were set up at different times during the evolution of
Sirinia intra-continental basin. In the southernmost and lowermost part of the basin
(Povalina sequence), the absence of the volcanic rock fragments implies that the
sedimentation started at the beginning of the Sirinia basin development, before the onset
of the volcanic activity. The source of the detrital clasts was represented by Precambrian
metamorphic rocks of the crystalline basement, while the sedimentary fraction may
have possibly originated in the Upper Carboniferous siliciclastic rocks. In the southern
part of the basin (Starite sequence), the presence of both metamorphic and volcanic
rock fragments indicate that sediments accumulation took place simultaneously with the
Sirinia basin development and ongoing volcanic activity. According to [2], the presence
of the extensional faults system (Fig. 2B bottom) imply that extensional tectonic activity
and successive subsidence of the basin was also subsequent to initial sedimentary
deposition and most probably was related to the onset of volcanism. In the northwestern
part of the basin (Ielieva sequence), the dominant rhyolitic components of the detrital
clasts (>90 %) indicate that the volcanic activity had ceased and the resulted clastic
sediments could illustrate, according to [2], the erosional stage undergone by an already
emerged part of the volcanic areas. The high degree of clasts rolling reflected in the
rounded forms indicate that the source areas were located at some distance from the
sedimentation place. In the case of Starite sequence were recognized two volcanic
source areas: a proximal one which supplied with sediments the first five sections, and a
distal one which fed the last section.
The siliciclastic sequences often display a red color (especially on Ielieva and Povalina
valleys) which suggests deposition of sediments in an arid climate. The 13C and 18O
values measured on carbonate nodules from red mudstones (facies Fr) and respectively
limestone (facies P) suggests that the precipitation of calcite occurred in an arid climate
characterized by average temperatures of 30C, high rates of evaporation and rainfall
with isotopic signatures similar to the ones currently found at low latitudes (between 0
and 30 N/S) [26]. According to [27] the arid regime was induced by the uplift of the
equatorial highlands Variscan fold belt, which acted as a precipitation barrier. This
uplift was a consequence of the convergence between the Laurasia and Gondwana
plates during the Upper Carboniferous and Lower Permian (e.g. [28]).

The sedimentological interpretation of the sedimentary facies leads us to the conclusion
that during the Permian time, the siliciclastic rocks of Sirinia basin were accumulated in
alluvial conglomeratic or sandy channels to alluvial floodplain settings, belonging to a
braided (Povalina and Ielieva sequences) and meandering (Starite sequence) river
The sedimentation during Permian times was controlled by two major factors: (i) a
tectonically active source area, which provided Precambrian metamorphic rocks and
Upper Carboniferous siliciclastic rocks (Povalina and Starite sequences), and (ii) an
active volcanic source, which supplied a large amount of rhyolitic rock-fragments to the
coarse-grained sediments (Starite and Ielieva sequences). The petrographic diversity
10 Geology

of coarse-grained sediments implies that sedimentary sequences were accumulated

simultaneously with the development of Sirinia basin during Permian time.
The paleoclimate conditions corresponded to a hot and arid climate, similar to the ones
currently found at low latitudes.

The author acknowledges the PALEOCLIM project (grant ANCS-PN2, 31-063/2007)
during which this study has started, and the Institute of Geodynamics of the Romanian
Academy. Many thanks to Dr. Ioan Seghedi and Dr. Silviu Rdan for their advices, to
Dr. Delia Papp for discussion, and to Dr. Horia Mitrofan for the English review.

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