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Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215

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Sedimentary Geology

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Determining flow directions in turbidites: An integrated

sedimentological and magnetic fabric study of the Miocene Marnoso
Arenacea Formation (northern Apennines, Italy)
Fabrizio Felletti ⁎, Eleonora Dall'Olio, Giovanni Muttoni
Università degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra ‘Ardito Desio’, Via Mangiagalli 34, I-20133, Milano, Italy

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Depositional models of turbidity flows require estimating paleocurrent directions using sedimentological indica-
Received 20 November 2015 tors such as flute and ripple marks, but these are not always present in outcrop sections or drill cores. In this
Received in revised form 5 February 2016 study, we apply the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS) as an alternative tool to estimate paleocurrent
Accepted 7 February 2016
directions in a case-study turbiditic system: the Marnoso Arenacea foredeep turbidites of Miocene age exposed
Available online 17 February 2016
in the northern Apennines of Italy. Different depositional facies have been sampled for AMS and additional
Editor: Dr. B. Jones rock-magnetic analyses. We observed a good agreement between paleocurrent directions from flute casts at
the base of turbidite beds and mean directions of maximum magnetic susceptibility axes in organized facies
Keywords: such as massive and laminated sandstones, even if a relatively small but apparently consistent offset of
Turbidites ~15–20° seems to be present. Highly dispersed AMS fabrics were instead observed in disordered facies such as
Marnoso Arenacea Formation convoluted and undulated sandstones as well as debrites. This strong correlation between hydrodynamic re-
Miocene gimes of depositional facies and AMS data represents a novel contribution and confirms the validity of the
Anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility AMS method to estimate flow directions in the absence of sedimentological indicators. Finally, paleomagnetic
Paleocurrent directions
analyses from the literature were used to reconstruct the paleogeography of the Marnoso Arenacea basin and
make inferences about the origin and direction of transport of the sediments at the basin scale.
© 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction However, sedimentological indicators are not always present in outcrop

sections and are virtually absent from drill cores, and this latter consti-
Submarine density flows characterize sediment transport in vast tutes a major limitation when it comes to reconstructing, for example,
portions of the deep sea, and produce some of the most extensive and the depositional architecture of turbidites from Atlantic-type passive
voluminous sediment accumulations on Earth that can contain major margin basins that have proven to be among the most important set-
oil and gas reserves (Viana, 2008; Nilsen et al., 2007). Recent studies tings for modern oil exploration.
have shown that turbiditic systems are characterized by great variability An alternative method to estimate paleocurrents is represented by
in terms of size, geometry, facies, and stacking patterns, as a result of the the analysis of the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS), which
interplay of several factors such as sea-level change, local and regional is a relatively inexpensive and highly effective technique that investi-
tectonic settings, basin size and shape, sediment type and frequency of gates the magnetic fabric of rocks as a proxy of grains spatial distribu-
depositional events, and volume of gravity flows (Mutti, 1992; tion. Standing water deposition is characterized by planar, gravity-
Pickering et al., 1995; Mulder and Alexander, 2001; Carruba et al., induced magnetic settling fabrics with minimum susceptibility axes of
2004; Nilsen et al., 2007; Mutti et al., 2009; Felletti and Bersezio, magnetic grains oriented perpendicular to the depositional plane within
2010; Talling et al., 2015, Maino et al., 2013). which maximum and intermediate susceptibility axes are uniformly
The evaluation of paleocurrent directions is a basic requirement to dispersed, whereas the magnetic fabric of sediments deposited under
interpret the depositional architecture of turbiditic successions as well the action of flowing water is typified by a current-oriented magnetic
as the structure and texture of the constituent beds. Paleocurrents are foliation plane (e.g., Ellwood, 1980; Lowrie and Hirt, 1987; Taira,
traditionally estimated through sedimentological indicators (i.e., ripple 1989; Parés et al., 2007; Schwehr et al., 2007; Novak et al., 2014). Syn-
marks, flute marks) or, more rarely, by means of optical analyses on depositional or early post-depositional soft-sediment deformation and
thin sections aimed at determining the orientation of elongated grains. the modifying effect of burrowing organisms are usually considered as
shaping processes of primary fabrics, although it is important to realize
⁎ Corresponding author. that these processes may significantly alter the original fabric formed by
E-mail address: (F. Felletti). the depositing current (Hiscott and Middleton, 1980). Also, secondary
0037-0738/© 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
198 F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215

fabrics due to post-depositional compaction, downslope creep, diagen- 2015) that crops out extensively over an area 180 km long and 40 km
esis, or even metamorphism may overprint or even completely obliter- wide in the northern Apennines from Emilia to Umbria (Fig. 1A), and
ate the primary current-induced fabric (Allen, 1984; Schwehr et al., is partly buried under tectonic or sedimentary units both to the W and
2007; Novak et al., 2014). to the NE of its present outcrop area. The Marnoso Arenacea Formation
In this study, we apply the AMS to estimate paleoflow directions in is a composite, wedge-shaped turbidite succession representing the
the Marnoso Arenacea Formation, which is a turbiditic system of Mio- final filling of a Miocene migrating Apennine foredeep complex, which
cene age extensively outcropping in the northern Apennines of Italy. accumulated between the Langhian and the Tortonian (Ricci Lucchi
Our contribution has two main targets: and Valmori, 1980; Fig. 1B). Palinspastic restorations indicate an origi-
nal width of the Marnoso Arenacea Formation basin of 140–90 km
1. Validating the AMS-based paleocurrent estimates. The well-exposed
and a sediment thickness of up to 3 km (Ricci Lucchi, 1975; Boccaletti
stratigraphic sections selected in this study are characterized by the
et al., 1990; Vai, 2001; Costa et al., 1998). The 1 km-isopach (Dondi
presence of clear sedimentological indicators of paleocurrent direc-
et al., 1982; Argnani and Ricci Lucchi, 2001) defines an elongate basin
tions (flute casts and ripple marks) that can be used for checking
extending for at least 400 km along the Apennine front (Fig. 1A). To
the reliability of paleocurrent estimates from AMS data.
the southeast, the thickness of the Marnoso Arenacea Formation de-
2. Determining which type of sediment works best for the application
creases rapidly, suggesting the presence of a structural high within the
of the AMS method. We tackled this target by sampling 11 different
southeastern (Umbrian) part of the basin (Argnani and Ricci Lucchi,
depositional intervals (e.g., including massive, laminated, and convo-
2001). Paleogeographic reconstructions as well as petrographic and
luted sandstones, debrites, as well as white marlstone beds separat-
paleocurrent analyses revealed longitudinal transport patterns within
ing turbiditic intervals).
the elongated Marnoso Arenacea Formation basin, fed mainly by Alpine
The main outcome of this analysis is a systematic study of the rela- (crystalline) sources through multiple entry points located to the N and
tionships between AMS and sedimentary structures that brings the ap- W in present-day coordinates. Most paleocurrent directions measured
plication of AMS techniques in turbidites to new levels of at the base of turbidite beds indicate axial flows from the NW to the
understanding. SE (in present-day coordinates; Fig. 1A). In addition, minor volumes of
carbonate and hybrid turbidites, derived from shallow-water carbonate
2. Geological setting platforms located along the southern and southeastern margins of the
basin (Fig. 1A), have also been reported to display flow directions
The Marnoso Arenacea Formation is a non-channelized, mainly from the SE to the NW, i.e. opposite to the siliciclastic turbidites
siliciclastic turbidite system (Ricci Lucchi and Valmori, 1980; Amy and (Gandolfi et al., 1983). Furthermore, slumps and turbidite flows have
Talling, 2006; Muzzi Magalhaes and Tinterri, 2010; Malgesini et al., been reported coming also from active thrust fronts located to the

[BR] sampling site

turbiditic mud-cap and marlstones
Po plain stack of turbidite beds


Parma 100

Ap 200
en Bologna


Marnoso Arenacea Fm. (MIOCENE)

GIU Pesaro

~ 3000 m


Firenze PM BR




Isopachs of MA fm. Siena


Approximate location of the [PM]

Apennine front at the Miocene age
Contessa key bed
Outcrop of MA fm. [COR;CAB;GIU;PRE;CP;CR]

Foreland carbonate source
Apennine source
Alpine source [BR]
50 km
Sampled stratigraphic sections A IO key bed B

Fig. 1. A) Map showing the outcrop area and thickness of the Marnoso Arenacea Formation (after Argnani and Ricci Lucchi, 2001; isopachs in the Po plain subsurface from Dondi et al.,
1982) and location of the 8 sections (small solid squares; geographical locations in Table 1) sampled at various sites through 11 different depositional intervals. Sediment sources were
located mainly in the Alps but also the Apennines including foreland carbonate ramps in the south. B) Schematic stratigraphical log of the Marnoso Arenacea Formation (modified
after Mutti et al., 2002).
F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215 199

west of the basin (Ricci Lucchi, 1975). Scarcity of in situ benthic fossils of the kmax axes either parallel or perpendicular to the current direc-
prevents definite conclusions about paleobathymetry (most macrofos- tion depending on the hydrodynamic boundary conditions. Finally,
sils and macroforaminifera quoted in literature appear reworked). an anisotropic fabric with an overlapping, shingling pattern of mag-
Rare agglutinated foraminifera (Vai, 2001) and abundant bioturbations netic grains is called an imbricated fabric (Fig. 2). Following the def-
(McBridge and Picard, 1991; Monaco and Checconi, 2008; Monaco, inition of Baas et al. (2007), the imbrication angle is the angle at
2008) suggest a bathyal depth on the order of ~1000 m. which a prolate or lobate grain leans away from a horizontal position
Siliciclastic turbidites make up about 90% of the fan lobe and basin- in the bedding plane.
plain deposits, and are characterized by mudstone caps (Bouma's Te di- After deposition, the fabric may be affected by compaction, bioturba-
vision) representing 1/3 to 1/2 of each turbidite bed. Carbonate-rich tion, and disruption by migration of trapped fluids and/or gas, or even
marlstones contribute for the remaining 10% of the total sediment vol- tectonic deformation. As pointed out by Parés et al. (1999), there
ume. Turbidites belong to two distinct classes (Ricci Lucchi and seems to be a general agreement in studies dealing with AMS fabrics
Valmori, 1980): (i) thin turbidites arranged in multilayered stacks, in deformed rocks (e.g., Borradaile and Tarling, 1981, 1984; Parés and
which tend to wedge-out and shale-out gradually down-current, and Dinarès-Turell, 1993; Sagnotti and Speranza, 1993; Mattei et al., 1995)
(ii) single turbidite beds of large volume and spatial extent referred to that the first effect of layer-parallel shortening is to group the kmax
as basin-wide turbidites (or megaturbidites), which tend to maintain axes perpendicular to the shortening direction whereas the kmin axes
a virtually constant thickness (and sand/mud ratio) over distances of tend to remain perpendicular to the bedding plane); with further short-
km to tens of km. These megaturbidites are multi-sourced and consti- ening, the kmin axes progressively rotate into the tectonic shortening di-
tute laterally traceable marker beds, such as the carbonate-rich rection, and the magnetic foliation becomes parallel to the flattening
Contessa megabed or the Colombine megaturbidites comprised of hy- plane and mesoscopic cleavage [examples of this sedimentary-to-
brid arenites, skeletal calcarenites, and marlstones. tectonic fabric progression are provided by Housen et al. (1995),
Averbuch et al. (1992), and Parés et al. (1999)]. Hence, in order to dis-
3. The anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS) criminate between sedimentary and tectonic fabrics, the relationships
between the AMS and the geometry of sedimentary and tectonic fea-
After the pioneering work of Rees (1965), several authors applied tures must be studied in detail.
the AMS to study paleocurrents in sedimentary rocks, obtaining useful We consider the AMS fabric of the studied samples as induced essen-
results especially in sediments of appropriate grain size, usually clay tially by sedimentary (primary) processes rather than tectonic (second-
and fine sand (Galehouse, 1968; Hamilton and Rees, 1970; Argenton ary) processes essentially because we observed a strong correlation
et al., 1975; Taira and Scholle, 1979; Hiscott and Middleton, 1980; between hydrodynamic regimes, as deduced from sedimentary facies
Ledbetter and Ellwood, 1980; Knode et al., 1990; Schieber and analysis, and associated AMS fabrics, as illustrated below (see also
Ellwood, 1993; Tarling and Hrouda, 1993; Hiscott et al., 1997; Liu Dall'Olio et al., 2010, 2013).
et al., 2001, 2005; Parés et al., 2007; Veloso et al., 2007; Baas et al.,
2007). The AMS reflects the alignment of magnetic grains attained in 4. Sampling and methods
the final stages of sediment transport, with the maximum susceptibility
axis, kmax, and the minimum susceptibility axis, kmin, approximating the Eight stratigraphic sections (Fig. 1A; coordinates in Table 1)
preferred orientation of the longest and shortest magnetic grain axes, (Talling et al., 2012, 2013) have been sampled at different sites com-
respectively (e.g., Hamilton and Rees, 1970; Taira and Scholle, 1979; prising 11 different depositional intervals (sensu Harms, 1975;
Tarling and Hrouda, 1993; Borradaile et al., 1999, Baas et al., 2007). Walker, 1984). These sections straddle altogether a ~ 60 m-thick in-
This method is based on the fact that a current is able to orient paramag- terval of the Marnoso Arenacea Formation, essentially comprised be-
netic grains (e.g., phyllosilicates, olivines, pyroxenes, anphiboles) and tween the Contessa and the Fiumicello marker beds (Carta Geologica
ferromagnetic (sensu lato) grains (e.g., magnetite, goethite, hematite), dell'Appennino Emiliano-Romagnolo 1:10.000) (Fig. 1B). In order to
and that the resulting AMS ellipsoid (Fig. 2) reflects the orientation obtain a direct estimate of flow directions, we measured with a mag-
imparted by the current to such grains (e.g., Ellwood, 1980; Lowrie netic compass the orientation of flute marks at the base of turbidite
and Hirt, 1987; Taira, 1989; Sagnotti and Meloni, 1993; Parés et al., beds. Flute marks, represented by protuberances in the sandstone
2007); naturally, these grains should be proven to be primary (syn-sed- bed or hollows in the underlying mud layer (Rich, 1950), are pro-
imentary) in origin rather than secondary (diagenetic), and in this re- duced by high energy currents; they show long shape axes oriented
spect, thin section analyses (see below) show that there is no parallel to the average current direction (Kuenen, 1957) and asym-
evidence of diagenetic mineral alteration that may affect the magnetic metric shapes that allow to distinguish between up- and down-
fabric of the studied rocks. current directions.
For example, primary phyllosilicates tend to accumulate in still Samples for AMS and additional paleomagnetic analyses were col-
water with their short shape axes perpendicular to the bedding lected with a water-cooled rock drill and oriented with a magnetic com-
plane, and as a result, an oblate mineralogical fabric develops pass. Selected marker beds were sampled in multiple sections to study
(well-developed foliation). The AMS fabric mimics this because in the magnetic fabric up- and down-current within the same flow unit.
phyllosilicates, the short shape axis corresponds to the crystallo- Cylindrical samples were reduced in the laboratory to standard
graphic c-axis as well as to the minimum susceptibility direction, ~10 cm3 specimens. AMS analyses were carried out on 551 specimens
and therefore, a magnetic foliation (defined by the plane containing with a KLY-3 Kappabridge. A susceptibility tensor was then fit to the
kmax and kint) develops parallel to the depositional surface (Ellwood, data by means of least square analysis, and the errors of the fit were cal-
1980; Tarling and Hrouda, 1993; Parés et al., 2007). When currents culated using multivariate statistics (Agico KLY-3 User's Guide, Ver. 2.2
are present (Fig. 2), hydraulic forces control grains alignment (cur- Nov., 1998). Susceptibility tensors were subsequently rotated into tilt-
rent-induced fabric; Shor et al., 1984). The long shape axis of elon- corrected coordinates using site-mean bedding attitudes, and then plot-
gated paramagnetic grains, as well as of large ferromagnetic grains, ted on stereographic projections. We also obtained for each site the
lines up either parallel or perpendicular to the current direction in mean magnetic lineation L = kmax/kint (Balsley and Buddington, 1960)
case of moderate (b 1.2 m/s) or high (N 1.2 m/s) hydrodynamic re- and magnetic foliation F = kint/kmin (Stacey et al., 1960) (Table 2). Oblate
gimes, respectively (Allen, 1984). The AMS fabric reflects this be- (foliated) and prolate (lineated) fabrics were plotted on Flinn-type dia-
cause in such elongated grains, the maximum susceptibility axis grams (Hrouda, 1982; Tarling and Hrouda, 1993). All paleomagnetic
tends to lie broadly along the particle length. Consequently, a sedi- analyses were carried out at the Alpine Laboratory of Paleomagnetism
mentary magnetic lineation can develop as revealed by a clustering of Peveragno, Italy.
200 F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215

Flow-transverse (rolling) fabric

b-axis b-axis
c-axis c-axis

a-axis a-axis
Flow direction Flow direction
Non-imbricated grain fabric Imbricated grain fabric

Nord Flow direction Nord Flow direction

k max
k int
k min

Non-imbricated magnetic fabric Imbricated magnetic grain fabric

Flow-aligned fabric
a-axis a-axis

c-axis c-axis
b-axis b-axis
Flow direction Flow direction

Non-imbricated grain fabric Imbricated grain fabric

Nord Flow direction Nord

Flow direction

k max
k int
k min

Non-imbricated magnetic fabric Imbricated magnetic grain fabric

Horizontal fabric Flow-oblique fabric

c-axis a-axis


Flow direction Flow direction

Disperse grain fabric Non-imbricated grain fabric

Nord Flow direction Nord Flow direction

k max
k int
k min

Disperse magnetic fabric Non-imbricated magnetic fabric

Fig. 2. Main types of anisotropic grain shape fabrics. The orientation of elongated grains and the orientation of the three principal orthogonal axes in upper hemisphere stereograms are
drawn. Non-imbricated and imbricated sub-fabrics are shown in the left and right panels, respectively. Horizontal fabric is non-imbricated by definition; a = long grain axis; b = grain axis
of intermediate length; c = short grain axis.
F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215 201

Table 1
Geographic location of sampling sites.

Sampling section Name Latitude Longitude

COR Corniolo lat = 43°54′30.54″N lon = 11°47′41.80″E

PRE Premilcuore lat = 43°58′45.52″N lon = 11°46′53.31″E
CP Castelpriore lat = 43°49′29.47″N lon = 12°7′21.00″E
CAB Cabelli lat = 43°55′50.87″N lon = 11°51′7.40″E
GIU Giumella lat = 43°58′7.75″N lon = 11°45′44.36″E
CR Castel del Rio lat = 44° 9′42.38″N lon = 11°27′51.41″E
BR Bagno di Romagna lat = 43°49′27.92″N lon = 11°57′30.01″E
PM Passo dei Mandrioli lat = 43°48′40.52″N lon = 11°56′0.27″E

5. Turbidite facies and ams fabrics by well clustered kmax axes with an overall mean direction (302°E;
Table 2) slightly departing (by ~ 14°) from the overall mean
To ease comparison between AMS fabrics and paleocurrent direc- paleocurrent direction from flute casts (316°E) (Fig. 6A). This magnetic
tions from flute casts from the various sites, and therefore make infer- fabric is compatible with relatively low-density suspensions with clasts
ences about potential controls of flowing currents on the observed transported by traction and rapidly deposited in flow-aligned (slightly
AMS fabrics, we had to migrate AMS and flute cast data into a common oblique) fabrics. Imbrication angles of ~10° dipping up-current (i.e., to
reference frame, as follows: the NW) have been occasionally observed (sites BO1c, CAB2b, COR4a,
GIU1b; Fig. 7A, B, C, D, respectively). This feature confirms that
1. we averaged flow directions from flute casts (Fig. 3A, B) in tilt- siliciclastic turbidites flowed from the NW to the SE. Carbonatic and hy-
corrected coordinates (i.e., after correction for bedding tilt) for both brid massive sandstones coming from the SE (Fig. 6B), sampled at 3 sites
siliciclastic turbidites and carbonatic-hybrid turbidites, which result- in 3 sections (n = 31 samples; fabric parameters in Table 2), show more
ed to flow, respectively, from 316°E ± 23° (NW) to the SE (Fig. 3C), scattered kmax axes (relative to siliciclastic sandstones) that seem to
and from 147°E ± 19° (SE) to the NW (Fig. 3D); group around a mean direction (127°E) departing by ~ 20° from the
2. then, each sampled site and associated AMS axes have been rotated mean paleocurrent direction from flute casts (147°E) (Fig. 6B).
into these common reference flow directions; for example (Fig. 4), Interpretation: similar disordered/oblique fabrics have been de-
siliciclastic turbidite sites CP2 and COR4a are characterized by actual scribed in several massive sandstones (Baas et al., 2007), and could be
flow directions from flute-casts of 328°E and 293°E, respectively; caused by high viscosity due to high near-bed sediment concentration
hence, actual flow direction and AMS axes from site CP2 have been combined with frequent clast collisions during rapid settling from sus-
rotated in unison by 12° counter-clockwise, while actual flow direc- pension. The different behaviors between siliciclastic and carbonatic
tion and AMS axes from site COR4a by 23° clockwise, into the refer- sandstones are probably related to differences in the minerals that con-
ence mean direction of 316°E. tribute to the magnetic fabrics in the coarse and fine fractions of the sed-
iment and their subsequent post-sedimentary evolution during burial.
5.1. Massive sandstones (Bouma's Ta interval)
5.2. Parallel-laminated sandstones (Bouma's Tb interval)
These sandstones (Fig. 5A) lack stratification and are characterized
by gradual normal grading (Amy and Talling, 2006). They are commonly These sandstones (Fig. 5A, B, C, D) comprise alternations of laminae
interpreted as the product of deposition at rates of suspended load fall- of different grain sizes (mainly fine sands), usually present at the top of
out high enough to suppress tractional transport (Arnott and Hand, stratified planar beds or massive beds with normal grading. Laminae
1989; Allen, 1991; Kneller and Branney, 1995; Shanmugam, 1996). Al- formation is related to traction coupled with fall-out in upper flow re-
though the massive beds used in the present study were selected care- gimes (Lowe, 1982; Ghibaudo, 1992).
fully, it cannot be excluded that some samples were collected from Siliciclastic parallel-laminated sandstones coming from the NW
depositional intervals that appear massive by eye, but were formed in (Fig. 6C), sampled at 14 sites in 7 sections (n = 141 samples; fabric
upper plane-bed or current ripple flow regimes. parameters in Table 2), are characterized by well clustered kmax axes
Siliciclastic massive sandstones coming from the NW (Fig. 6A), sam- with an overall mean direction (301°E) slightly departing (by ~ 15°)
pled at 6 sites in 5 sections (n = 49 samples; Table 2), are characterized from the overall mean paleocurrent direction from flute casts (316°E)

Table 2
AMS parameters for the 11 studied depositional intervals shown in Figs. 5, 6; n: total number of samples analyzed (n); Kmean = mean susceptibility; kmax = maximum suscep-
tibility; kint = intermediate susceptibility; kmin = minimum susceptibility; L = magnetic lineation; F = magnetic foliation; kmax direction: direction of the maximum axes on the
stereoplot; σ = standard deviation.

Depositional interval n Kmean ± σ kmax ± σ kint ± σ kmin ± σ F±σ L±σ

[+10E-6 SI] [+10E-6 SI] [+10E-6 SI] [+10E-6 SI]

1 Siliciclastic massive sandstones 49 154.52 ± 63.01 157.93 ± 64.77 154.62 ± 63.24 151.02 ± 61.08 1.023 ± 0.017 1.022 ± 0.005
2 Carbonatic and hybrid massive sandstones 31 103.39 ± 42.78 104.97 ± 43.95 103.65 ± 42.79 101.55 ± 41.61 1.019 ± 0.008 1.011 ± 0.007
3 Siliciclastic parallel laminated sandstones 141 172.50 ± 43.09 177.21 ± 43.82 173.24 ± 42.98 167.06 ± 42.55 1.038 ± 0.018 1.023 ± 0.007
4 Carbonatic and hybrid parallel laminated 48 75.88 ± 9.15 76.77 ± 9.33 76.03 ± 9.31 74.83 ± 9.15 1.016 ± 0.010 1.010 ± 0.004
5 Siliciclastic cross laminated sandstones 40 157.32 ± 31.08 161.53 ± 32.55 158.74 ± 31.98 151.71 ± 28.76 1.044 ± 0.017 1.018 ± 0.006
6 Carbonatic and hybrid cross laminated 34 97.57 ± 19.32 98.79 ± 19.70 97.81 ± 19.42 96.13 ± 18.85 1.017 ± 0.007 1.010 ± 0.003
7 Undulated sandstones 32 147.96 ± 56.41 151.70 ± 58.08 148.55 ± 56.54 143.64 ± 54.67 1.033 ± 0.019 1.020 ± 0.008
8 Siliciclastic convoluted sandstones 45 129.87 ± 39.79 132.70 ± 41.62 130.14 ± 40.64 126.17 ± 37.15 1.031 ± 0.019 1.014 ± 0.006
9 Carbonatic and hybrid convoluted 8 128.45 ± 32.43 131.43 ± 34.01 129.67 ± 33.42 124.25 ± 29.87 1.040 ± 0.020 1.013 ± 0.005
10 Debrites 30 152.79 ± 13.83 155.81 ± 14.21 152.99 ± 14.06 149.57 ± 13.30 1.023 ± 0.010 1.019 ± 0.009
11 WM beds 93 157.73 ± 26.48 161.37 ± 27.70 158.45 ± 27.07 153.38 ± 24.75 1.032 ± 0.018 1.018 ± 0.005
202 F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215


50 cm

n = 22 n=6

C 7

Fig. 3. In situ measurements of flute marks and linear grooves present at the base of turbiditic beds (panels A and B, respectively) were used to reconstruct average tilt-corrected
paleocurrent directions coming from the NW (316°E) in siliciclastic turbidites (panel C) and from the SE (147°E) in carbonatic and hybrid turbidites (panel D); N = geographic north,
n = number of measurements. See text for discussion.

(Fig. 6C); imbrication angles ranging between 10° and 25° and dipping Both siliciclastic (40 samples) and carbonatic cross-laminated (34
up-current (i.e., to the NW) have been observed only at sites CP5, GIU1a, samples) sandstones (fabric parameters in Table 2), are characterized
and PRE2 (Fig. 7E, F, G). Carbonatic and hybrid parallel-laminated sand- by kmax axes that are poorly clustered on the horizontal plane (Fig. 6E,
stones coming from SE (Fig. 6D), sampled at 5 sites (n = 48 samples; F). The overall kmax mean direction (poorly defined) seems to depart
fabric parameters in Table 2), are characterized by well clustered kmax from the overall mean paleocurrent direction from flute casts (by ~39°
axes with an overall mean direction (127°E) slightly departing (by for siliciclastic sandstones coming from the NW and by ~ 5° for the
~ 20°) from the overall mean paleocurrent direction from flute casts carbonatic and hybrid sandstones coming from SE).
(147°E) (Fig. 6D). Interpretation: these poorly clustered AMS ellipsoids are
Interpretation: the substantially flow-aligned magnetic fabric is interpreted as reflecting the particle transport in the form of grain
interpreted to reflect the dominance of rapid sedimentation from flows (i.e. grain avalanche processes; Rees, 1968, 1983; Allen,
suspension on tractional transport of clasts. The aggradation of plane- 1984), related with migrating bed forms. This depositional mecha-
parallel laminations (Rusnak, 1957) implies bed load transport and nism is known to develop flow-aligned fabric and relatively high im-
suspension settling. Bed load grains tend to maintain their major axes brication angles on the leeward slip face of current ripples. Baas et al.
perpendicular to the main flow direction (Baas et al., 2007), whereas (2007) suggested that deposition of suspension load may also con-
particles transported in suspension are typically oriented with their tribute to produce flow-aligned fabric, principally in depositional in-
major axes parallel to the main flow direction . tervals with steeply climbing ripples. Flow-transverse transport
(rolling fabric) can take place on the up-current side of ripples,
where flow velocity increases; however, the lack of flow-transverse
5.3. Cross-laminated sandstones (Bouma's Tc interval) fabric in Bouma's Tc divisions can be explained (Baas et al., 2007)
considering that in most cases this part of the ripple profile is not
These sandstones (Fig. 5C, D, E, F) are characterized by ripple-cross preserved. Flow-aligned fabrics in Bouma's Tc divisions show relative
laminations related to traction coupled with fall-out under lower flow high circular variance (i.e. characterized by kmax axes that are poorly
regimes conducive to ripple formation. They represent the final flow clustered on the horizontal plane) compared to Bouma's Ta and Tb in-
stages, in which flow density and velocity are sufficiently low for tervals, as a result of local variations in flow direction over current
bedform development (Lowe, 1982; Ghibaudo, 1992). ripples with sinuous and linguoid crest lines.
F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215 203

8° n = 14 n=6



k max
k int
k min

Fig. 4. Example of procedure followed to rotate tilt-corrected AMS axes into a common reference direction to ease data comparison at the basin scale. Siliciclastic turbidite sites CP2 and
COR4a are characterized by actual flow directions from flute-casts of 328°E and 293°E, respectively, and have been rotated, in unison with their AMS ellipsoids, by 12° counter-clockwise
and 23° clockwise, respectively, into the reference mean flow direction of 316°E. See text for discussion.

Some ripple cross-laminated sandstones sampled in the Castel del explain the coexistence of a broad range of kmax orientations: a flow-
Rio and Passo Mandrioli sections (CR and PM in Fig. 1) show kmax axes transverse orientation (prevailing when the flow becomes strong
aligned at high angles relative to the paleoflow direction measured by enough to lift deposited grains and allow them to roll and jump on
flute casts at the base of the turbidite beds. This discrepancy, confirmed the bedding plane; Schwarzacher, 1963; Johansson, 1964; Hendry,
by measurements of paleoflow direction from ripple crests alignment, 1976) is easily changed into a more stable flow-aligned orientation.
can be related to a partial flow rebound as the result of successive de-
flections of turbidity currents against the basin margins or intrabasinal 5.5. Convoluted sandstones
highs (Muzzi Magalhaes and Tinterri, 2010).
These medium- to fine-grained sandstones (Fig. 5H, I, L) are charac-
5.4. Undulated sandstones terized by the presence of convolute laminae with load structures. In
some cases, thick basal sandstones with undulated and convoluted lam-
These medium-grained sandstones (Fig. 5G) consist of a series of inae pass upward into mudstones through liquefied intervals with
broad, symmetrical undulations, between 20 and 50 cm in wavelength contorted pseudonodules. Convoluted laminae are often associated
and 2 to 4 cm in amplitude. The undulations are ~10 cm-thick and gen- with ripples that indicate paleocurrents moving in the opposite direc-
erally occur above a graded basal division. They grade upward by de- tion of those indicated by flute casts. Muzzi Magalhaes and Tinterri
creasing in amplitude into parallel laminae. The crests of the (2010) interpreted this facies as due to shear stress caused by internal
undulations are roughly parallel to the sole mark directions. They are wave-induced cyclic loading.
interpreted as longitudinal features generated by upper flow regimes These sandstones, sampled at 5 sites from 2 sections (n = 53 sam-
(Walker, 1967). These siliciclastic sandstones, sampled at 4 sites from ples; fabric parameters in Table 2), are characterized by highly dis-
4 sections (n = 32 sample; fabric parameters in Table 2), are character- persed magnetic susceptibility axes (Fig. 6H, I).
ized by most of kmax axes oriented within ~ 15° from the overall mean Interpretation: these results can be explained considering that
paleocurrent direction (Fig. 6G); a subordinate mode occurs at ~90° of through liquefied intervals, clasts tend to be only weakly flow-aligned
the mean paleocurrent direction, consistent with pronounced flow- (e.g., Lindsay, 1968; Hiscott et al., 1997), mainly in the zone of shearing.
transverse fabric. Albeit highly scattered, the susceptibility axes are not randomly distrib-
Interpretation: the gradual upward decrease in amplitude of undula- uted whereby they tend to define a flow-transverse fabric with mean
tions within the beds, and the continuity of lamination across undula- kmax direction rotated by ~ 90° in siliciclastic sandstones and by ~ 51°
tions, indicate a gradually decreasing energy regime during deposition in carbonatic and hybrid sandstones from the reference mean flow di-
(Rees, 1968, 1983; Allen, 1984). This variation in flow velocity can rection from flute casts (Fig. 6H). A similar discrepancy in the same
204 F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215




Fig. 5. Samples for AMS and additional paleomagnetic analyses were collected in different depositional intervals: massive sandstones (A); parallel-laminated sandstones (B,C,D); cross-
laminated sandstones (C,D,E,F); undulated sandstones (G,H); convoluted sandstones (I,L); debrites (M); white marlstone beds (N).

facies has been observed by Muzzi Magalhaes and Tinterri (2010) 5.6. Debrites
between paleocurrent directions determined from flute casts and
from the vergence of convoluted folds, and interpreted as the result These non-graded, matrix-supported sandstones (Fig. 5M) show cha-
of deflection of turbidity currents against the basin margins or otically distributed clasts in a swirly matrix fabric containing a percentage
intrabasinal highs. Imbrications of k max axes by 10°–20° down- of mud varying from very low (b10%) to high (20 to 50%) (Talling et al.,
current observed in several sites (CAB2c, CR4, CR6, CR7; Fig. 7H, I, J, 2004; Amy and Talling, 2006). Their base is usually flat or display shallow
K, respectively) can be related to the presence of shear waves (i.e. cy- linear grooves but lack well-developed flute casts. Correlation of distant
clic wave loading related to shear stress caused by trains of moving sections in the Marnoso Arenacea Formation basin and elsewhere show
internal waves in high-density turbidity currents; Muzzi Magalhaes that both mud-poor (sandy) and mud-rich (muddy) debrites can extend
and Tinterri, 2010) that may affect the imbrication angle of elongat- laterally for up to 60 × 30 km, and pinch-out abruptly in down-flow and
ed grains at or close to the bedding plane, even producing down cur- cross-flow directions in a fashion consistent with en masse deposition
rent imbrications (Sakai et al., 2002). (Talling et al., 2004; Amy and Talling, 2006; Malgesini et al., 2009;
F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215 205




Fig. 5 (continued).

Fonnesu et al., 2015, Southern et al., 2015; Marini et al., 2016). Amy and 5.7. White Marlstone (WM) beds
Talling (2006) interpret debrites as cohesive flows (debris flows) with
sufficiently high sediment concentration (either sand or mud) to inhibit These beds (Fig. 5N) sharply overlie Bouma's Te intervals of
the segregation of particles of different sizes. turbiditic origin from which they are distinguished by their texture,
Debrites have been sampled at 4 sites from 3 sections (n = 30 sam- lighter color, greater carbonate content (25–45%; chiefly from plank-
ples; fabric parameters in Table 2), and show AMS fabrics that are gen- tonic foraminifera and coccoliths, and rare benthic foraminifera), and
erally disordered or sometimes slightly flow-aligned (Fig. 6J). lesser total organic content (~1% T.O.C versus ~2% T.O.C of the Bouma's
Interpretation: these results can be explained considering that in Te divisions). Their thickness is on the order of b20 cm, rarely exceeding
debrites, as in convoluted sandstones (see above), clasts tend to be 50 cm, and the grain size is comprised between mud and silt. They are
only weakly flow-aligned (e.g., Lindsay, 1968; Hiscott et al., 1997), characterized by a massive, speckled, and generally featureless aspect
mainly in the basal zone of shearing (Bouma and Pluenneke, 1975; with rare primary laminations (partially destroyed by bioturbation),
Enos, 1977). Moreover, frequent clast collisions during rapid settling and centimeter- to decimeter-scale color banding reflecting subtle com-
from suspension combined with high flow viscosity contribute to pro- positional variations. The WM beds are widespread in the basin plain
duce a disordered fabric (Baas et al., 2007). and are commonly interpreted as hemipelagites (Mutti and Ricci
206 F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215


k maximum
n = 49
sites = 6 k intermediate
k minimum
mean paleocurrent

100 mm
sites = 3
k intermediate
k minimum
mean paleocurrent

100 mm

n = 141
k intermediate
k minimum
paleocurrent direction

10 mm

sites = 5 k maximum
SANDSTONES - paleocurrent from SE
k intermediate
50 mm k minimum
mean paleocurrent

Fig. 6. From left to the right: photographs of sampled turbiditic facies, the associated AMS stereoplots (see Table 2 for data), and rose diagrams of the maximum susceptibility axes (kmax)
directions and associated mean (red lines) for comparison to the reference mean flow directions from flute-casts (blue arrows: 316° ± 23°E for siliciclastic turbidites and from 147° ± 19°E
for carbonatic and hybrid turbidites). The red line corresponds to the arithmetic mean of the Kmax. The axes of magnetic susceptibility (kmax = squares, kint = triangles, kmin = circles) are
plotted in tilt-corrected coordinates. (A) siliciclastic massive sandstones; (B) carbonatic and hybrid massive sandstones; (C) siliciclastic parallel-laminated sandstones; (D) carbonatic and
hybrid parallel-laminated sandstones; (E) siliciclastic ripple cross-laminated sandstones; (F) carbonatic and hybrid ripple cross-laminated sandstones; (G) undulated sandstones;
(H) siliciclastic convoluted sandstones; (I) carbonatic and hybrid convoluted sandstones; (J) debrites; (K) white marlstone beds. N = geographic north; sites = number of sites; n =
number of samples.
F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215 207


sites = 4 k maximum
k intermediate
k minimum
mean paleocurrent

10 mm

sites = 4
k intermediate
k minimum
mean paleocurrent

50 mm
sites = 4 k maximum
k intermediate
100 mm k minimum
mean paleocurrent

sites = 4 k intermediate
k minimum
mean paleocurrent

100 mm
Fig. 6 (continued).
208 F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215


Fig. 6 (continued). AMS k maxROSE DIAGRAMS
sites = 1 k maximum
k intermediate
k minimum
mean paleocurrent

50 mm

DEBRITES n = 30 k maximum
sites = 4
k intermediate
k minimum
mean paleocurrent

100 mm
sites = 9 k maximum
k intermediate
k minimum

50 mm

Fig. 6 (continued).

Lucchi, 1972, 1975; Rupke, 1976; Mutti, 1977, 1979; Mutti and Johns, phyllosilicates, parallel to the mean current direction in the final
1979; Talling et al., 2007; but see Dall'Olio et al., 2010, 2013). stages of transport.
A well-preserved depositional anisotropic fabric with clustered sus-
ceptibility axes is evident in all WM beds (Fig. 6K; fabric parameters in 5.8. Summary of AMS data
Table 2). The kmin axes are consistently vertical or sub-vertical,
i.e., perpendicular or sub-perpendicular to the bedding planes, whereas Tilt-corrected AMS ellipsoids appear to be very well defined in mas-
the kmax axes are consistently horizontal, i.e., parallel to the bedding sive, parallel laminated, and cross-laminated sandstones (Fig. 6;
planes, and oriented NW–SE. In one case (site COR 1b; Fig. 7L), an imbri- Table 2) insofar as mean kmin directions are vertical or sub-vertical
cated fabric with kmax axes plunging to the SE was observed. (i.e., perpendicular or sub-perpendicular to bedding planes) whereas
Interpretation: these results suggest that the WM beds deposited mean kmax directions lie at low angles relative to the reference mean
under weak velocity flows (Dall'Olio et al., 2010, 2013) that oriented paleocurrent directions from flute-casts. In these facies, Flinn-type
the kmax axes of paramagnetic grains, probably slightly elongated plots indicate a well-developed foliation (slightly oblate fabrics) likely
F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215 209

A N n=8
B N n=5
C N n=6
D N n=9

E N n = 15 F N n = 11 G N n = 15 H N n=8

I N n = 11
J N n = 12
K N n=7
L N n=5

k max
k int
k min

Fig. 7. Stereographic projections of the principal axes of magnetic susceptibility (kmax = squares, kint = triangles, kmin = circles) in tilt-corrected coordinates of sites characterized by
magnetic imbrication. The blue arrows represent the reference mean paleocurrent directions from flute casts (316° ± 23°E) for siliciclastic turbidites and 147° ± 19°E for carbonatic
and hybrid turbidites). N = geographic north; n = number of samples; BO1c, etc. = site name.

associated to the deposition of phyllosilicates with short shape axes per- depositional processes that disrupted the original current-induced
pendicular to the bedding planes (Fig. 8). Moreover, in these facies a fabric (e.g., dewatering).
small but relatively consistent offset of up to ~15–20° counterclockwise
has been observed between mean kmax directions and mean paleoflow 6. Magnetic mineralogy
directions from flute casts (Fig. 6A, B, C, D, E). Excluding systematic mea-
surement errors, the cause of the observed offset may be sought in small In order to estimate the contribution of ferromagnetic (sensu latu)
differences of flow directions between the erosive, flute cast-generating particles to the AMS, the anisotropy of isothermal remanent magnetiza-
stage of turbidity currents and the subsequent depositional stages dur- tion (AIRM) (Tarling and Hrouda, 1993) was measured on 43 cylindrical
ing which massive, planar, and cross stratifications are formed (assum- samples. Each sample was AF-demagnetized in a field of 50 mT with a
ing substantial flow alignment of kmax axes in these facies). Taira and Molspin tumbler demagnetizer, then magnetized in a direct field of
Scholle (1979), and Clark and Stanbrook (2001) showed similar upward 20 mT with a PUM-1 Agico Pulse Magnetizer, and, finally, the induced
changes in mean orientation of magnetic fabric in Bouma-type turbi- magnetic remanence was measured on a Agico JR6 spinner magnetom-
dites that seems to support our observations. Processes such as local eter; this procedure was applied for each sample along 12 different di-
changes in current direction due to current meandering, or that involve rections. The AIRM data were rotated into tilt-corrected coordinates
currents interaction, lateral confining slopes (Muzzi Magalhaes and using site-mean bedding attitudes, and plotted on stereographic projec-
Tinterri, 2010), or the Coriolis effect on decelerating flows (e.g., Scott, tions for comparison with the AMS diagrams.
1967, Colburn, 1968; Parkash and Middleton, 1970; Yagishita and The AIRM (Fig. 9, left panels; Table 3;) has been studied on a selected
Jopling, 1983), may all have contributed to the observed offset, which set of samples from sites characterized by well-defined AMS ellipsoids.
is presently under investigation. To ease comparison, AMS and AIRM data have been plotted on common
Finally, highly dispersed AMS fabrics dominate disordered facies equal-area steroplots. Sites CP1a (parallel laminated sandstones) and
such as convoluted and undulated sandstones as well as debrites. BO1c (massive sandstones) show clustered maximum, intermediate,
This is in agreement with depositional processes that partially and minimum AIRM axes (red symbols in Fig. 9, left panels) that broadly
prevented grains orientation (e.g., en masse freezing) or early post- coincide with the maximum, intermediate, and minimum susceptibility
210 F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215

1.05000 cryogenic magnetometer. Thermal demagnetization of the NRM re-

vealed the presence in 46 samples of a magnetic component isolated be-
tween room temperature and 250–300 °C and broadly aligned along the
present-day field direction in in situ coordinates (average MAD = 5°).
prolate fabric Removal of these initial magnetizations revealed the presence of
scattered component directions with no linear trending to the origin
of the demagnetization axes.
L=K max /K int

1.03000 The apparent absence of primary (i.e., Miocene) magnetic compo-

nent directions prompted us to adopt NRM data from the literature in
order to restore the present-day basin geometry (Fig. 1) to Miocene
1 times (Fig. 11) by subtracting post-Miocene Apennine counterclockwise
1.02000 10 7
11 thrust sheet rotations. We corrected average paleoflow directions by
applying a clockwise rotation of 29° ± 8° as suggested by Speranza
8 9 et al. (1997) Muttoni et al. (1998, 2000) for the same general area of
2 this study. This correction yielded N–S average paleoflow directions of
1.01000 4
6 Marnoso Arenacea turbidites deposited during the Miocene in a N–S
oriented foredeep associated with the eastward migration of the Apen-
oblate fabric nine thrust fronts (di Biase and Mutti, 2002) (Fig. 11).
1.00000 Within this regional setting, the Marnoso Arenacea basin can be
1.00000 1.01000 1.02000 1.03000 1.04000 1.05000 subdivided into a shallow-marine Alpine Basin in the north, and a
F=K int /K min deep-marine Apennine Basin in the south, separated by the Valle
Salimbene-Bagnolo Ridge (Fig. 11), which is a roughly ESE-trending,
buried feature interpreted as a wrench zone acting as the kinematic
Fig. 8. Flinn-type plot for the 11 studied depositional intervals. See Table 2 for depositional
interval numbering, definition, and magnetic parameters; L = magnetic lineation; F = transfer between the N–S compression in the Alps and the SW–NE com-
magnetic foliation. pression in the Apennines (di Biase and Mutti, 2002). Large volumes of
sand coming from the southern and western Alps in the north (Gandolfi
et al., 1983; Ricci Lucchi, 1986; Roveri et al., 2002) were able to enter the
axes of the AMS ellipsoid (black symbols in Fig. 9), suggesting a clear adjacent and deeper Apennine Basin through turbidity currents that
contribution to the AMS by ferromagnetic (sensu latu) minerals. The crossed the Valle Salimbene-Bagnolo Ridge possibly along fault-
AIRM and AMS of site GIU3c (cross-laminated sandstones) also show controlled depressions. Then, these turbidity currents moved south-
some degree of similarity, whereas in site GIU1b (massive sandstones), ward within the confined foredeep (di Biase and Mutti, 2002), while
the AIRM axes appear scattered relative to the AMS axes. From these at the same time minor volumes of carbonatic and hybrid turbidites
analyses, we conclude that in the investigated facies, there is a variable moved northward upon entering the foredeep from shallow-water car-
contribution of ferromagnetic (sensu latu) grains to the AMS. bonate platforms located along the southern and south-eastern margins
The nature of these grains has been determined by means of isother- of the basin (Gandolfi et al., 1983) (Fig. 11).
mal remanent magnetization (IRM) acquisition curves and thermal de- In addition to southward-flowing siliciclastic turbidites and
magnetization of a 3-component IRM (Lowrie, 1990) (Fig. 9, central and northward-flowing carbonatic and hybrid turbidites, the Marnoso
right panels, respectively). These analyses reveal the presence of a dom- Arenacea basin was also characterized by the presence of N–S contour
inant low coercivity phase with maximum unblocking temperature of currents, which left their testimony in the white marlstone (WM)
~570 °C interpreted as magnetite coexisting with an intermediate coer- beds. These deposits have frequently been interpreted as due to
civity phase with unblocking temperature of ~320 °C interpreted as a hemipelagic settling of fine-grained particles, but according to AMS
sulfide phase. Hematite with high coercivity and maximum unblocking analysis (Dall'Olio et al., 2013; this study) they are interpreted as depos-
temperature of ~ 680 °C is also occasionally present (e.g., sample ited under weak velocity currents. These results prompted Dall'Olio
GIU1.16). et al. (2013) to suggest that the WM beds may have deposited under
In addition, thin sections were cut parallel and perpendicular to the the effects of contour currents and should therefore be referred to as
flow direction (determined by flute casts) for optical scrutiny and image muddy contourites.
analysis using ImageJ software (Rasband, 2008). Image analysis has
been conducted on thin sections in massive sandstones (site CP;
Table 1). Phyllosilicates (muscovite), magmatic lithics, quartz, and feld- 8. Conclusions
spars have been recognized in abundant carbonate matrix (Fig. 10).
Minerals with an anisotropic shape have been selected and divided in The AMS is a very useful fabric analysis technique for quantifying
three different classes of orientation (red objects oriented up-current, flow directions in turbiditic sandstones provided it is performed in
blue object sub-horizontal, green objects oriented down-current; appropriate depositional intervals selected by means of detailed sed-
Fig. 10). imentological analyses and is cross-validated by direct estimates of
In conclusion, according to our analysis paramagnetic phyllosilicates flow directions from sedimentological indicators (before attempting
and ferromagnetic-bearing magmatic lithics, likely containing magne- extrapolations to cases where sedimentological indicators are ab-
tite, dominate the observed current-induced AMS and AIRM fabrics. sent, e.g., in drill cores). Particular advantages of this technique are
the significantly faster measurement time compared to standard
7. Paleogeography of the Marnoso Arenacea basin petrographic fabric analysis and its capability to characterize the ori-
entation of the entire population of (magnetic) grains in three di-
To define amount and sense of vertical-axis tectonic rotations of Ap- mensions, whereas standard image analysis on orthogonal thin
ennine thrust sheets, and restore AMS data to a pre-rotation paleogeog- sections is intrinsically limited to two-dimensional estimates of
raphy, the natural remanent magnetization (NRM) of the sediments grains' orientations.
was studied by thermally demagnetizing a total of 157 fresh specimens In the Marnoso Arenacea Formation, we observed a strong correla-
in increasing steps from room temperature up to 450 °C, and measuring tion between hydrodynamic regimes as deduced from sedimentary
the NRM after each heating step with a 2G Enterprises 755 DC-SQUID facies analysis and associated AMS fabrics, which implies that these
F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215 211

AMS and AIRM stereoplots IRM diagrams ThIRM diagrams

120 120


Magnetisation J
Magnetisation J

0 40

-80 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700
BO 1c AMS kmax AIRMmax 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 T [°C]
n=8 AMS kint AIRMint [mT]
AMS kmin AIRMmin 0.1 T 0.4 T 2.5 T

10 GIU1.16
Magnetisation J

Magnetisation J

0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700
GIU 1b AMS kmax AIRMmax 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 T [°C]
n=9 AMS kint AIRMint [mT]
n=9 AMS kmin AIRMmin 0.1 T 0.4 T 2.5 T


20 14
CP1.5a CP1.5a

Magnetisation J

Magnetisation J


0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700
CP 1a AMS kmax AIRMmax 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 T [°C]
n = 11 AMS kint AIRMint [mT]
n = 10 AMS kmin AIRMmin 0.1 T 0.4 T 2.5 T


40 CP4.4
Magnetisation J

Magnetisation J

0 10

0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700
CP 4a AMS kmax AIRMmax 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 T [°C]
n=9 AMS kint AIRMint [mT]
n=8 AMS kmin AIRMmin 0.1 T 0.4 T 2.5 T


12 GIU3.26
Magnetisation J
Magnetisation J

4 4


-8 0
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700
GIU 3c AMS kmax AIRMmax 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
T [°C]
n=8 AMS kint AIRMint [mT]
n=6 AMS kmin AIRMmin 0.1 T 0.4 T 2.5 T

Fig. 9. AIRM and AMS stereoplots of selected samples (left panels; see Table 3 for data) and associated isothermal remanent magnetization (IRM) acquisition curves (central panels) and
thermal demagnetization of a 3-component IRM (right panels); AMS kmax = black squares, AMS kint = black triangles, AMS kmin = black circles; AIRMmax = red squares; AIRMint = red
triangles; AIRMmin = red circles; N = geographic north; n = number of samples; BO1c, etc. = site name.
212 F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215

Table 3
AIRM and AMS parameters of samples shown in Fig. 9; n: number of samples per site; Kmean = mean susceptibility; kmax = maximum susceptibility; kint = intermediate susceptibility;
kmin = minimum susceptibility; L = magnetic lineation; F = magnetic foliation; σ = standard deviation.


Site n Kmean ± σ [+10E-3 SI] kmax ± σ [+10E-3 SI] kint ± σ [+10E-3 SI] kmin ± σ [+10E-3 SI] L±σ F±σ

CP1a 10 29.82 ± 6.54 32.91 ± 7.50 29.88 ± 6.68 26.66 ± 5.51 1.101 ± 0.037 1.119 ± 0.052
CP4a 8 38.35 ± 6.20 42.40 ± 7.78 38.11 ± 6.65 34.54 ± 4.48 1.111 ± 0.056 1.010 ± 0.072
BO1c 8 378.23 ± 103.50 421.46 ± 121.79 380.12 ± 104.70 333.10 ± 85.25 1.108 ± 0.053 1.138 ± 0.049
GIU1b 9 14.82 ± 2.85 16.22 ± 4.98 14.90 ± 3.03 13.34 ± 1.01 1.074 ± 0.085 1.114 ± 0.185
GIU3c 6 9.12 ± 1.77 9.65 ± 1.81 9.19 ± 1.75 8.51 ± 1.76 1.050 ± 0.027 1.084 ± 0.025


Site n Kmean ± σ [+10E-6 SI] kmax ± σ [+10E-6 SI] kint ± σ [+10E-6 SI] kmin ± σ [+10E-6 SI] L±σ F±σ

GIU3c 8 116.83 ± 5.35 118.10 ± 5.54 116.94 ± 5.31 115.47 ± 5.20 1.010 ± 0.003 1.013 ± 0.004
GIU1b 9 134.80 ± 4.04 137.41 ± 4.08 134.53 ± 4.01 132.46 ± 4.05 1.021 ± 0.002 1.016 ± 0.002
BO1c 8 279.38 ± 48.07 286.34 ± 51.23 280.11 ± 48.23 271.71 ± 44.77 1.021 ± 0.007 1.030 ± 0.008
CP4a 9 76.56 ± 5.59 77.99 ± 5.92 76.92 ± 5.79 74.78 ± 5.07 1.074 ± 0.005 1.028 ± 0.011
CP1a 11 139.15 ± 4.67 143.49 ± 4.83 140.32 ± 4.81 133.66 ± 4.32 1.023 ± 0.001 1.050 ± 0.003

AMS fabrics are primary in origin and the result of sedimentary (rather before attaining a more stable flow-transverse orientation. The diffi-
than tectonic) processes. The following conclusions have been reached: culty to identify a unique transport mode in these depositional inter-
vals makes the reconstruction of paleocurrent directions from AMS
1) Massive, parallel-laminated, and cross-laminated beds contain-
data more challenging, if compared to massive, parallel-laminated
ing paramagnetic phyllosilicates show well-clustered AMS data
and cross-laminated divisions.
with a single dominant fabric type; AIRM data are substantially
3) Highly dispersed AMS fabrics are apparently common in convoluted
similar to AMS data suggesting a contribution to the AMS by fer-
and undulated sandstones as well as in debrites, suggesting deposi-
romagnetic grains (mainly magnetite probably contained in lithic
tional processes that partially prevented grains orientation (e.g., en
grains). A robust correlation between AMS fabric and
masse freezing) or early post-depositional processes that disrupted
paleocurrent directions from sedimentological indicators
the original current-induced fabric (e.g., dewatering).
(e.g., flute casts) has been found in these facies, albeit a small
4) Our AMS analysis coupled with paleomagnetic and geologic data
but relatively consistent offset of up to ~ 15–20° counterclockwise
from the literature helped reconstructing the complex paleogeogra-
has been observed and tentatively explained as due to small var-
phy of the Marnoso Arenacea foredeep prior to rotational deforma-
iations of flow directions between the erosive, flute cast-
tion of the Apennines since the Miocene.
generating stage of turbidity currents and the subsequent deposi-
tion of massive, planar, and cross stratifications.
2) Fabrics oriented at high angle (~40–60°) relative to the paleocurrent
direction from sedimentological indicators (flow-transverse fabric) Acknowledgments
have been observed only in a few samples and can be interpreted
as the result of successive deflections of turbidity currents against G. Malgesini is acknowledged for his help during field work. The re-
the margins of the basin and/or intrabasinal highs, or due to flow ac- viewers and Associate Editor are warmly acknowledged for their helpful
celerations (triggered by, e.g., interactions with floor topography) suggestions. Financial support was provided by FIRB 2009–2012 funds
able to lift grains from the depositional plane and roll them over it to F. Felletti, and IAS grant to E. Dall'Olio.


k max
k int
k min
direction n = 14

Fig. 10. Thin section of sample CP2. Grains are mostly quartz, muscovite, feldspars, volcanic and carbonatic lithics, and fragments of fossils (planctonic foraminifera). (A) original photo;
(B) photo elaborated throughout Image Analysis techniques. The orientation of the major axis of these grains with respect to the horizontal plane has been measured. Three classes of
orientation have been defined: green and red objects represent grains characterized by an imbrication, and blue objects represent sub-horizontal grains. Muscovite grains appeared
particularly well oriented: in particular, their long axis appear to be sub-parallel to the flow direction and also clearly imbricated.; (C) AMS steroplot of site CP2 (kmax = squares,
kint = triangles, kmin = circles); N = geographic north; n = number of samples; blue arrow = actual flow direction from flute-casts at the base of the sampled bed (328°E).
F. Felletti et al. / Sedimentary Geology 335 (2016) 197–215 213

Structured South-Alpine belt

Parma Tertiary Alpine basin

Valle Salimbene-
Bologna Bagnolo ridge




Fle dria f

xu ore


ra l
for m












~15 Ma Langhian-Serravallian
Isopachs of MA fm. Foreland carbonate source

Approximate location of the Apennine source

Apennine front Alpine source
Outcrop of MA fm.
Sampling site

Fig. 11. Paleogeographic map of the studied area during the middle Miocene showing the main sources and dispersal patterns of sediment within the Marnoso Arenacea foredeep basin.
See text for details and discussion.

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