First records of syn-diagenetic non-tectonic folding in Quaternary thermogene travertines caused by hydrothermal incremental veining.

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  • This study is the first documentation of syn-diagenetic non-tectonic contractional deformations observed in two Pleistocene thermogene travertine deposits from the late Miocene-Pleistocene Tuscan extensional-hydrothermal province (Italy). The deposits consist of primary porous beds hosting secondary bed-parallel carbonate veins. The porous beds are generally flat-lying, particularly in the upper section of the deposits, whereas the veined beds frequently form undulated structures. These structures are up to a few meters in wavelength, are mostly confined within the lower-middle section of the deposits, and are here mostly interpreted as folds. Field observations, U-Th geochronology, and stable isotope analyses are used to characterize the origin of veins and folds. Radiometrically-determined age inversions, structure overprinting relationships, downward growth of vein crystals, deformation of primary sedimentary structures, and downward increasing frequency of veins and folds show that the undulated travertine beds can be mainly interpreted as the product of syn-diagenetic hydrothermal rejuvenation causing non-tectonic veining and folding. The non-tectonic hypothesis is also supported by the absence of contractional deformation in the travertine-hosting sediments. The folds were generated by complex mechanisms including bending and buckling caused by laterally-confined volume expansion during syn-diagenetic circulation of mineralizing fluids and related incremental veining. Modeling some folds with the Biot-Ramberg's buckling equation shows a vein-to-host travertine viscosity ratio between 1.5 and 4, confirming the syn-diagenetic origin of folds. Veining and folding changed some original properties of travertines including rheology, fabric, porosity, and chronological sequence. The identification of these structures and related changes of rock properties (e.g., age rejuvenation) is relevant for the proper interpretation of thermogene travertines as recorders of many geological processes including paleoclimate oscillations, earthquake occurrences, hydrothermal circulations, and uplift or incision rates. Synthesizing, the studied thermogene travertines appear more like sedimentary-hydrothermal-hybrid zoned deposits rather than pure sedimentary systems uniquely responding to the superposition law.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International