Evolution of the North Caucasus foredeep: constraints based on the analysis of subsidence curves
Review articleOpen access

AbstractUsing a database of more than 130 wells the Alpine evolution of the North Caucasus foredeep can be described in three main periods. (1) The Early Jurassic to Middle–Late Cretaceous (including the Cenomanian) relates to the initial rifting phase and was characterised by succession of comparatively high rates of subsidence and uplift. During this stage, many events in the eastern and western parts were synchronous, whereas some of them appeared to be smoothed in the Stavropol high. The southern border of the area had a more complex behaviour often moving in the opposite direction relative to the rest of the area. The main peculiarities of evolution of the Great Caucasus region can be explained if we adopt the hypothesis of Stamply and Pillevuit (1993)and suppose that the Early Jurassic extension of the trough was accompanied by a strong left-lateral transform movement. As a result the central part of the Great Caucasus trough formed as a pull-apart basin. Analysis of the style of movements of the southern border of the Scythian plate as well as data on tectonics and volcanism in the Great and Lesser Caucasus showed that other regional compressional and extensional Mesozoic events could also have a transform component. Shear stresses within the lithosphere of the Great Caucasus can be due to oblique subduction or even transform movements at the plate boundary to the south of the Caucasus region (Dercourt et al., 1993). (2) The period from the Late Cretaceous to the Middle Eocene (from the Turonian to the Bartonian) relates to the oceanic suture of the Lesser Caucasus and was characterised in the Great Caucasus area by alternating subsidence and uplift events of considerably lower amplitude (at least up to the Maastrichtian). Beginning in the Late Paleocene, subsidence curves for almost all the area reflect the same events, but in the western part and also in the north of the central part the rate of movements was considerably higher and since the Late Paleocene short term events in this area took place on the background of rather fast subsidence at nearly constant rate. We believe that this subsidence and formation of the East Black Sea depression have the same origin. We consider strong differences in evolution of the eastern, western and central parts during the second stage to be due to closure of the Lesser Caucasus oceanic basin and arrival of the Nakhichevan block. This led to changes of configuration of the plate boundary and resulted in reorganisation of stress and displacements within the Caucasus region. This reorganisation was a reason for the opening of the East Black Sea depression and rapid subsidence of the western and central parts of the area at the end of the second stage. (3) The period from the Middle Eocene to the present relates to the development of a foreland basin coeval with shortening and uplift in the adjacent Great Caucasus range. It was characterised by alternation of relatively short uplift and longer subsidence events. An important feature of this stage is that although the amplitude of movements varied from place to place, these events were synchronous in all parts of the foredeep (at the Stavropol region sediments preserved only for the beginning of this stage). Formation and evolution of the foredeep during the third stage can not be explained exclusively by elastic flexure. To do this we used the model of a small-scale convection within the asthenosphere (Mikhailov et al., 1996, Mikhailov et al., 1999). By the comparison of numerical results with the data on the evolution of the North Caucasus foredeep we concluded that there were four main stages of compression in the processes of formation of the Great Caucasus mountain belt. The first compression took place before the Maykopian (between 39.5 and 36.0 Ma). The other three were in the Tarkhanian (16.6–15.8 Ma), Konkian–Early Sarmatian (14.3–12.3 Ma) and Pontian (7.0–5.2 Ma). The different width of the Great Caucasus trough by the beginning of the compression, as well as variations in thickness of the lithosphere and a different thermal state can cause interruption of the formation of the foredeep at the Stavropol high.

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