EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The Paleogene Gosau Group of Gams slope basin of the incipient Eastern Alpine orogenic wedge (Austria)

Veronika Koukal1 and Michael Wagreich2
Veronika Koukal and Michael Wagreich
  • 1Department of Geology, University of Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria (
  • 2Department of Geology, University of Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria

This study investigates the Paleogene deep-water depositional system of the Gosau Group at Gams, Styria (Austria). The examined sections of Danian to Ypresian age (NP1-NP12) comprise sediments of the Nierental and Zwieselalm formations. Four deep-water clastics facies assemblages were encountered, (1) carbonate-poor turbidites, (2) carbonate-rich turbidites, (3) marl-bearing turbidites and (4) a marl-dominated facies. Slump beds and mass flow deposits are common in all facies.

The examined sections predominantly consist of sandy and silty graded beds, including fine breccia layers at the base, to silty shales or claystones on top. Normal grading, lamination, amalgamation of sandy beds and bioturbation are characteristic for all sections. The thickness of sandstone beds varies strongly from only centimeters to several meters, but in general, sandy beds get thicker at sections dated at late Selandian age or younger. Within thinner beds Bouma Tbcd intervals are present. Thus, most sections contain sequences of thin to medium-bedded, fine-grained turbidites.

Based on heavy mineral, thin section, microprobe, and paleoflow analyses, provenance was from the surrounding Northern Calcareous Alps (NCA) rocks and exhuming metamorphic Upper Austroalpine units to the south. Provenance indexes based on heavy mineral assemblages indicate the dominance of an upper greenschist to lower amphibolite facies source of the investigated sediments. In addition, biogenic-calcareous material was delivered by adjacent contemporaneous shelf zones.

The sedimentary depocenter was situated at the slope of the incipient Alpine orogenic wedge, in frontal parts of the NCA, facing the subducting Penninic Ocean/Alpine Tethys. The evolution of the Gams Basin was connected to the eoalpine and mesoalpine orogeny, and the adjunctive transpressional setting. The Gams slope basin provided a fairly small depositional area and accommodation space on the incipient alpine orogenic wedge, and the pervasive tectonic deformation of the NCA destroyed and obscured important features of the formerly confined source-to-sink system. However, the Gams deep-water depositional system is interpreted as an aggrading or prograding submarine fan, deposited into a small confined slope basin, positioned along an active continental margin, bound and influenced by (strike-slip) faults, related to crustal shortening. The development of the Gams slope basin and its infilling sequences was mainly dominated by tectonism and sediment supply, rather than by eustatic sea-level fluctuations. General greenhouse conditions, with enhanced chemical weathering under seasonal conditions are assumed for the entire Gosau Group of Gams (Upper Cretaceous to Eocene), which enhanced erosion and facilitated a greater terrestrial sediment supply. Particularly an increased input of siliciclastics around the PETM is noticeable, including significant numbers of sandy turbidites. The basin was cut off during the Eocene due to renewed orogeny. A Quaternary analogue for the Paleogene basin setting of the Gams area is represented by the Santa Monica Basin in the California Continental Borderland.

How to cite: Koukal, V. and Wagreich, M.: The Paleogene Gosau Group of Gams slope basin of the incipient Eastern Alpine orogenic wedge (Austria), EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-4589,, 2022.