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Short-term erosion pattern in the Alps-Apennines belt constrained by downstream changes of zircons morphology and U-Pb ages from the Po drainage modern sands

Abstract : Downstream changes of the geochronological signature in the Po drainage allow to assess the relative sediment contributions shed from the orogenic source areas, in order to constrain the short-term (100 to 10000 years) erosion pattern in the Alps-Apennines orogenic couple. In this perspective, we collected modern sands in selected tributaries draining the major tectonic units exposed in the orogen, as well as along the Po River trunk and in different sites of the Po Delta. Zircon concentrates were separated according to specific quantitative procedures coupled with grain-size and grain-density analyses, which provide an evaluation of zircon content in source rocks, of hydraulic sorting effects, and related intersample/intrasample zircon variability. Our methodological approach allows to perform sediment budgets and evaluate mineral content in diverse sediment sources (mineral fertility). Budget calculations were performed by investigating geochronological signals upstream and downstream of major confluences. We employed, LA-ICPMS U-Pb geochronology on detrital zircons, because this technique allows a full control of zircon populations during separation procedures and data analysis; we found, instead, that fission track dating on detrital zircon is affected and biased by selective grain loss. Results of U-Pb analysis performed on single grains show that all samples from the Po Delta yield similar grain-age distributions, and include grain-age populations that are rather constant both in age and size. Major peaks are found at ca. 30 Ma, ca. 280 Ma, and 400-500 Ma. Peaks in these distributions can be traced upstream up to their sources. The bulk of the geochronological signature of the Po Delta sands is displayed already upstream of the confluence of the Northern Apennines rivers, suggesting that short-term erosion rates were much lower in the Northern Apennine than in the Western and Central Alps. Age peaks typical of the eastern Lepontine dome also characterize the Apenninic tributaries, reflecting Oligo-Miocene sedimentary transfer from the Central Alps to the Adriatic foredeep, and next tectonic accretion of turbidite wedges to the Apennine belt. U-Pb analyses were complemented by zircon typology of the whole dataset, integrated by SEM observations on selected samples. Major typological groups can be traced from entry points in the Po Plain down to the Po Delta. Euhedral zircons are largely shed from the External Massifs (Mont Blanc and Argentera) and the Periadriatic plutons. Zircon grains showing signs of chemical abrasion, possibly acquired under high-grade metamorphic conditions, were detected in tributaries draining the Lepontine area.
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Submitted on : Sunday, March 11, 2012 - 6:44:04 PM
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Marta Limoncelli. Short-term erosion pattern in the Alps-Apennines belt constrained by downstream changes of zircons morphology and U-Pb ages from the Po drainage modern sands. Continental interfaces, environment. Università degli studi di Milano-Bicocca, 2012. English. ⟨tel-00676613⟩

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