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Geochemistry and paleogeographic implications of Permo-Triassic metasedimentary cover from the Tauern Window (Eastern Alps)

Franz, Gerhard; Kutzschbach, Martin; Berryman, Eleanor J.; Meixner, Anette; Loges, Anselm; Schultze, Dina

FG Angewandte Geochemie

The chemical composition of metasediments is a valuable source of paleogeographic information about the protolith's sedimentary environment. Here, we compile major- and trace-element whole-rock data, including B contents, and 10/11 B-isotope ratios from the Permo-Triassic metasedimentary cover of the Pfitsch–Mörchner basin, overlying the Variscan basement in the western Tauern Window, Eastern Alps (Austria and Italy). The basement consists of orthogneiss (“Zentralgneis”, metamorphosed Variscan granitoids with intrusion ages between 305 and 280 Ma), and the roof pendant consists of granites (amphibolites, paragneiss, and minor serpentinites). The Zentralgneis is partly hydrothermally altered into pyrite quartzite with high Al–S contents, low Na–Sr–Ca–Mg contents, and very strong depletion of the light rare earth elements. Comparison with published detailed mapping of this and other time-equivalent basins in the western Tauern Window, with radiometric age data in the literature, and with unmetamorphosed basins in the South Alpine realm yields a late Permian to Early Triassic age of sedimentation. Although during Alpine metamorphism all rocks were strongly deformed, the whole-rock chemical compositions of the metasediments were not pervasively changed during deformation. We show that the sediments were deposited in a small, probably lacustrine–fluviatile, intramontane basin, under arid to semi-arid climatic conditions. The sequence starts with metaconglomerates, which can be interpreted as a mixture of the different basement rocks, based on a combination of major-element ratios Na2O /  (Na2O + K2O) and MgO / (MgO + Fe2O3) with concentrations of trace elements Cr, V, and Ni. The sequence is overlain by a fining-upwards sequence of clastic sediments, in which the behavior of K, Rb, and Sr allows the reconstruction of intense diagenetic K–B metasomatism, which raised the K2O contents up to ∼ 10 wt %. The average B content of 218 µg g−1 is well above the B content of common sediments, and the B-isotope composition reaches extremely low values of down to −33 ‰ δ11B. The top of the sequence is a lazulite quartzite, interpreted as a former conglomeratic phosphatic sandstone, which marks the transition from a closed Permian basin to an open Triassic basin. Within the clastic sequence, the presence of hydrothermal tourmalinite veins documents a hydrothermal event after deposition but before the onset of Alpine metamorphism. A metamorphosed mafic dike swarm in the orthogneiss indicates a post-Variscan event of basaltic magmatism, and this event is tentatively correlated with increased heat flow in the Triassic basin and hydrothermal activity. A consistent conceptual model of this basin and its diagenetic modifications, based on a combination of geochemical data with petrographical and field information, provides the geodynamic context of the European margin at the onset of the Alpine orogeny.