A new genetic facies model for deep-water clastic evaporites is presented, based on work carried out on the Messinian Gessoso-solfifera Formation of the northern Apennines during the last 15 years. This model is derived from the most recent siliciclastic turbidite models and describes the downcurrent transformations of a parent flow mainly composed of gypsum clasts. The model allows clearer comprehension of processes controlling the production and deposition of clastic evaporites, representing the most common evaporite facies of the northern Apennines, and the definition of the genetic and stratigraphic relationship with primary shallow-water evaporites formed and preserved in marginal settings. Due to the severe recrystallization processes usually affecting these deposits, petrographic and geochemical analyses are needed for a more accurate interpretation of the large spectrum of recognized gravity-driven deposits ranging from debrisflow to low-density turbidites. Almost all the laminar ‘balatino’ gypsum, previously considered a deep-water primary deposit, is here reinterpreted as the fine-grained product of high to low-density gravity flows. Facies associations permit the framing of the distribution of clastic evaporites into the complex tectonically controlled depositional settings of the Apennine foredeep basin. The Messinian Salinity Crisis occurred during an intense phase of geodynamic reorganization of the Mediterranean area that also produced the fragmentation of the former Miocene Apennine foredeep basin. In this area, primary shallow-water evaporites equivalent to the Mediterranean Lower Evaporites, apparently only formed in semi-closed thrust-top basins like the Vena del Gesso Basin. The subsequent uplift and subaerial exposure of such basins ended the evaporite precipitation and promoted a widespread phase of collapse leading to the resedimentation of the evaporites into deeper basins. Vertical facies sequences of clastic evaporites can be interpreted in terms of the complex interplay between the Messinian tectonic evolution of the Apennine thrust belt and related exhumation–erosional processes. The facies model here proposed could be helpful also for better comprehension of other different depositional and geodynamic contexts; the importance of clastic evaporites deposits has been overlooked in the study of other Mediterranean areas. Based on the Apennine basins experience, it is suggested here that evaporites diffused into the deeper portions of the Mediterranean basin may consist mainly of deepwater resedimented deposits rather than shallow-water to supratidal primary evaporites indicative of a complete basin desiccation.
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