Long-term landscape evolution of the Molise sector of the central-southern Apennines, Italy

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Abstract

This paper concerns the reconstruction of the main stages of the long-term landscape evolution of the Molise portion of the central-southern Apennines along a transect divided into three sectors (SW, Central and NE). Analysis mainly focused on geomorphological, stratigraphical and structural data supported by chronological constraints, coming from an overall review of past literature and several studies carried out by the authors of the paper during the last 20 years. The results obtained allowed the elaboration of a conceptual model of the long-term evolution of the Molise sector of the central-southern Apennines. Starting from the Pliocene, the emersion of the Molise area occurred gradually from SW to NE, allowing a polycyclic landscape to evolve under the major controls first of compression then transtensional to extensional tectonics as well as climatic variations. Principal markers of the Quaternary geomorphological evolution of the Molise area are represented by the infill successions of the intermontane tectonic depressions located in its internal, SW sector and by four orders of palaeosurfaces that developed between the Early Pleistocene and the beginning of the Late Pleistocene across the region. These markers testify to the alternation of phases of substantial tectonic stability and uplift whose spatial-temporal distribution could be assessed along the investigated transect. Results highlight that the most important stages of landscape evolution occurred during the Early and Middle Pleistocene. At the beginning of the Late Pleistocene, the Molise sector of the Apennine chain had already reached its present setting and further landscape evolution occurred under the major control of climate and land-use.

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