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

Open access


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.

Amato A. & Cinque A. 1999: Erosional landsurfaces of the Campano-Lucano Apennines: genesis, evolution and tectonic implications. Tectonophysics 315, 251–267.

Amato V., Aucelli P.P.C., Cesarano M., Pappone G., Rosskopf C.M. & Russo Ermolli E. 2011: The Sessano intramontane basin: new multi-proxy data for the Quaternary evolution of the Molise sector of the Central-Southern Apennines (Italy). Geomorphology 128, 15–31.

Amato V., Aucelli P.P.C., Russo Ermolli E., Rosskopf C.M., Cesarano M. & Pappone G. 2012: Quaternary morpho-evolution, tectonic and environmental changes in the Boiano intermontane basin (central-southern Italy). Rend. Online Soc. Geol. Ital. 21, 1225–1227.

Amato V., Aucelli P., Capozzi A., DE Benedittis G.F., Pappone G. & Rosskopf C.M. 2013: Environmental changes in the Boiano intramontane basin (Molise, Italy) since the times of Ancient Bovianum (IVth century BC). Alp. Med. Quat. 26, 1, 15–29.

Amato V., Aucelli P.P.C., Cesarano M., Jicha B., Lebreton V., Orain R., Pappone G., Petrosino P. & Russo Ermolli E. 2014: Quaternary evolution of the largest intermontane basin of the Molise Apennine (central-southern Italy). Rend. Fis. Acc. Lincei 25, 2, 197–216.

Amorosi A., Bracone V., Di Donato V., Rosskopf C.M. & Aucelli P.P.C. 2009: The Plio–Pleistocene succession between Trigno and Fortore rivers (Molise and Apulia Apennines): stratigraphy and facies characteristics. GeoActa 8, 1–12.

Amorosi A., Bracone V., Campo B., D’Amico C., Rossi V. & Rosskopf C.M. 2016: A late Quaternary multiple paleovalley system from the Adriatic coastal plain (Biferno River, Southern Italy). Geomorphology 254, 146–159.

Ascione A. & Cinque A. 1999: Tectonics and erosion in the long-term relief history of Southern Apennines (Italy). Z. Geomorphol. Suppl.-Bd. 117, 1–15.

Ascione A., Caiazzo C., Hippolyte J.C. & Romano P. 1997: Pliocene–Quaternary extensional tectonics and morphogenesis at the eastern margin of the southern Tyrrhenian basin (Mt. Bulgheria, Campania region, Italy). Il Quaternario, Ital. J. Quat. Sci. 10, 2, 571–578.

Ascione A., Ciarcia S., Di Donato V., Mazzoli S. & Vitale S. 2012: The Pliocene–Quaternary wedge-top basins of southern Italy: an expression of propagating lateral slab tear beneath the Apennines. Basin Res. 23, 1–19.

Ascione A., Donadio C., Pennetta M., Romano P., Russo Ermolli E. & Santangelo N. 2014: Thirty years of geomorphological researches in Southern Apennines. In: Rosskopf C.M. & Aucelli P.P.C. (Eds.): Long-term geomorphological evolution of the Southern Italy landscapes. The local university contributions. AGR Editrice Arti Grafiche la Regione srl, Ripalimosani (CB), 65–86 (in Italian).

Aucelli P.P.C., Cinque A. & Robustelli G. 1997: Quaternary evolution of the Larino-Apricena portion of the Apenninic Foredeep (SE Italy). Il Quaternario, Ital. J. Quat. Sci. 10, 453–460 (in Italian with English abstract).

Aucelli P.P.C., Cinque A. & Rosskopf C.M. 2001: Geomorphological map of the Trigno basin (Italy): explanatory notes. Geogr. Fis. Dinam. Quat. 24, 1, 3–12.

Aucelli P.P.C., Robustelli G., Rosskopf C.M., Scarciglia F., Di Paola G. & Lucà F. 2010: Geomorphologic map of the area between Frosolone and Trivento (Molise, Italy). Journal of Maps 6, 1, 423–434.

Aucelli P.P.C., Amato V., Cesarano M., Pappone G., Rosskopf C., Russo Ermolli E. & Scarciglia F. 2011: New morphostratigraphic and chronological constraints for the Quaternary palaeosurfaces of the Molise Apennines (southern Italy). Geol. Carpath. 62, 1, 17–26.

Aucelli P.P.C., Amato V., Scorpio V., Bracone V. & Rosskopf C.M. 2012: Palaeo-landscape reconstruction and assessment of long-term erosion rates through DEM analysis: preliminary results from the Molise Apennine (Central-Southern Italy). Rend. Online Soc. Geol. Ital. 21, 1105–1107.

Aucelli P.P.C., Cesarano M., Di Paola G., Filocamo F. & Rosskopf C.M. 2013: Geomorphological map of the central sector of the Matese Mountains (Southern Italy): an example of complex landscape evolution in a Mediterranean mountain environment. Journal of Maps 9, 4, 604–616.

Aucelli P.P.C., D’Argenio B., Della Seta M., Giano S.I. & Schiattarella M. 2014: Intermontane basins: Quaternary morphoevolution of Central-Southern Italy. Rend. Fis. Acc. Lincei 25, 107–110.

Bartolini C., D’Agostino N. & Dramis F. 2003: Topography, exhumation and drainage network evolution of the Apennines. Episodes 26, 3, 212–216.

Basili R., Galadini F. & Messina P. 1999: The application of palaeolandsurface analysis to the study of recent tectonics in central Italy. In: Smith B.J., Whalley W.B. & Warke P.A. (Eds.): Uplift, erosion and Stability: perspectives on long-term landscape development. Geol. Soc. London, Spec. Publ. 162, 109–117.

Boni A., Bruno G., Casnedi R., Centamore E., Colantoni P., Cremonini G., Elmi C., Monesi A., Motta E., Perotto G. & Valletta M. 1969: Geological Map of Italy (1:100,000 in scale), 155 sheet “San Severo”. Servizio Geologica d’Italia, Rome, (in Italian).

Bosi C., Caiazzo C., Cinque A. & Messina P. 1996: Remnant surfaces of the Fucino Basin and surrounding areas (Central Apennines) and their possible significance in reconstructing the local geological evolution. Il Quaternario, Ital. J. Quat. Sci. 9, 1, 381–386 (in Italian with English abstract).

Bracone V., Amorosi A., Aucelli P.P.C., Rosskopf C.M., Scarciglia F., Di Donato V. & Esposito P. 2012a: The Pleistocene tectono-sedimentary evolution of the Apenninic foreland basin between Trigno and Fortore rivers (Southern Italy) through a sequence stratigraphic perspective. Basin Res. 24, 213–233,

Bracone V., Amorosi A., Aucelli P., Ciampo G., Di Donato V. & Rosskopf C. 2012b: Palaeoenvironmental evolution of the Plio–Pleistocene Molise Periadriatic Basin (Southern Apennines, Italy): insight from Montesecco Clays. Ital. J. Geosci. 131, 2, 272–285.

Brancaccio L.& Cinque A. 1988: Geomorphological evolution of the Campanian-Lucanian Apennines. Mem. Soc. Geol. Ital. 41, 83–86 (in Italian with English abstract).

Brancaccio L., Cinque A., Orsi G., Pece R., Rolandi G. & Sgrosso I. 1979: Remnants of Pleistocene lacustrine deposits terraced on the Northern slope of the Matese, close to S. Massimo. Bollettino Società Naturalisti in Napoli 88, 275–286 (in Italian with English abstract).

Brancaccio L., Di Crescenzo G., Rosskopf C., Santangelo N. & Scarciglia F. 2000: Geological map of Quaternary deposits and Geomorphlogical map of the Upper Volturno River Valley (Molise, Southern Italy). Il Quaternario, Ital. J. Quat. Sci. 13, 1–2, 81–94 (in Italian with English abstract).

Calamita F., Piacentini T., Pizzi A., Rusciadelli G. & Trincardi F. 2011: Explanatory notes of the Geological map of Italy (1:50,000 in scale), 172 sheet “Vasto”. Servizio Geologico d’Italia. http://www.isprambiente.gov.it/Media/carg/note_illustrative/372_Vasto.pdf (in Italian with English abstract).

Casero P., Roure F., Endignoux L., Moretti I., Muller C., Sage L. & Vially R. 1988: Neogene geodynamic evolution of the southern Apennines. Mem. Soc. Geol. Ital. 41, 109–120.

Casciello E., Cesarano M. & Pappone G. 2006: Extensional detachment faulting on the Tyrrhenian margin of the Southern Apennines contractional belt (Italy). Geol. Soc. London 163, 671–629.

Casnedi R., Crescenti U., D’Amato C., Mostardini F. & Rossi U. 1981: The Plio–Pleistocene of the Molise underground. Geol. Romana 20, 1–42 (in Italian with English summary).

Casnedi R., Crescenti U. & Tonna M. 1982: Evolution of the Southern Adriatic Foredeep during Plio–Pleistocene by deep borehole data. Mem. Soc. Geol. Ital. 24, 243–260 (in Italian with English abstract).

Cello G., Martini N., Paltrinieri W. & Tortorici L. 1989: Structural styles in the frontal zones of the southern Apennines, Italy: an example from the Molise district. Tectonics 8, 753–768.

Cesarano M., Pappone G., Amato V., Aucelli P., Baranello S., Cascella A., Casciello E., Ferrarini F., Lirer F., Monaco R. & Rosskopf C.M. 2011: Stratigraphy and tectonic setting of the Sannio Unit in the northern sector of Matese Mountains. Rend. Online Soc. Geol. Ital. 12, 35–38 (in Italian with English abstract).

Channell J.E.T., D’Argenio B. & Horvath F. 1979: Adria, the African promontory, in Mesozoic Mediterranean paleogeography. Earth-Sci. Rev. 15, 213–292.

Cinque A., Patacca E., Scandone P. & Tozzi M. 1993: Quaternary kinematic evolution of the Southern Apennines. Relationships between surface geological features and deep lithospheric structures. Annali di Geofisica 36, 249–260.

Cipollari P. & Cosentino D. 1995: Miocene unconformities in Central Apennines: geodynamic significance and sedimentary basin evolution. Tectonophysics 252, 375–389.

Coltorti M. & Pieruccini P. 2000: A late Lower Pliocene planation surface across the Italian Peninsula: a key tool in neotectonic studies. J. Geodyn. 29, 323–328.

Coltorti M., Ferand G., Marzoli A., Peretto C., Ton That T., Voinchet P., Bohain J.J., Minelli A. & Thun Hohenstein U. 2005: New 40Ar/39Ar stratigraphic and palaeoclimatic data on the Isernia La Pineta Lower Palaeolithic site, Molise, Italy. Quat. Int. 131, 11–22.

D’Alessandro L., Miccadei E. & Piacentini T. 2003: Morphostructural elements of central-eastern Abruzzi: contributions to the study of the role of tectonics on the morphogenesis of the Apennine chain. Quat. Int. 101–102, 115–124.

D’Amico C., Aiello G., Barra D., Bracone V., Di Bella L., Esu D., Frezza V. & Rosskopf C.M. 2013: Late Quaternary foraminiferal, molluscan and ostracod assemblages from a core succession in the Trigno River mouth area (Central Adriatic Sea, Italy). Boll. Soc. Paleont. Ital. 52, 3, 197–205.

D’Argenio B., Pescatore T. & Scandone P. 1973: Geological scheme of the Southern Apennines (Campania and Lucania). In: New views on the Geology of the Apennines. Atti Acc. Naz. dei Lincei, Quad. 183, 49–72 (in Italian).

Deino A.L., Orsi G., De Vita S. & Piochi M. 2004: The age of the Neapolitan Yellow Tuff caldera forming eruption (Campi Flegrei caldera - Italy) by 40Ar/39Ar dating method. J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res. 133, 157–170.

Di Bucci D., Naso G., Corrado S. & Villa I. 2005: Growth, interaction and sismogenic potential of coupled active normal faults (Isernia Basin, Central-Southern Italy). Terra Nova 17, 44–55.

Di Celma C., Pieruccini P.L. & Farabollini P. 2015: Major controls on architecture, sequence stratigraphy and paleosols of middle Pleistocene continental sediments (“Qc Unit”), eastern central Italy. Quat. Res. 83, 3, 77–89.

Doglioni C., Harabaglia P., Martinelli G., Mongelli F. & Zito G. 1996: A geodynamic model of the Southern Apennines accretionary prism. Terra Nova 8, 540–547.

Frezza V., D’Amico C., Aiello G., Barra D., Bracone V., Di Bella L., Esu D. & Rosskopf C.M. 2012: Late Quaternary palaeoenvironmental evolution of the central Adriatic coast in the Trigno mouth area (Molise region). Rend. Online Soc. Geol. Ital. 21, 1086–1088.

Giano S.I. & Schiattarella M. 2014: Age constraints and denudation rate of a multistage fault line scarp: an example from southern Italy. Geochronometria 41, 3, 245–255.

Gioia D., Gallicchio S., Moretti M. & Schiattarella M. 2014: Landscape response to tectonic and climatic forcing in the foredeep of the southern Apennines, Italy: insights from Quaternary stratigraphy, quantitative geomorphic analysis, and denudation rate proxies. Earth Surf. Process. Landf. 39, 814–835.

Hippolyte J.C., Angelier J. & Roure F. 1994: A major geodynamic change revealed by Quaternary stress patterns in the Southern Apennines (Italy). Tectonophysics 230, 199–210.

ISPRA 2010: Geological Map of Italy (1:50,000 in scale). 405 sheet “Campobasso”. Servizio Geologico d’Italia. http://www.isprambiente.gov.it/Media/carg/405_CAMPOBASSO/Foglio.html (in Italian).

ISPRA 2011a: Geological Map of Italy (1:50,000 in scale). 393 sheet “Trivento”. Servizio Geologico d’Italia. http://www.isprambiente.gov.it/Media/carg/393_TRIVENTO/Foglio.html (in Italian).

ISPRA 2011b: Geological Map of Italy (1:50,000 in scale). 372 sheet “Vasto”. Servizio Geologico d’Italia. http://www.isprambiente.gov.it/Media/carg/372_VASTO/Foglio.html (in Italian).

Lanzafame G. & Tortorici L. 1976: Geological data on middle and low sectors of the Biferno River (Molise, Central-Southern Italy). Geol. Romana 15, 199–222 (in Italian with English summary).

Lirer F., Cascella A., Cesarano M., Casciello E. & Pappone G. 2007: Micropaleontological study on the Miocene calcareous turbidite deposits of Faeto and Tufillo formations (eastern sector of the Southern Apennine chain). Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 113, 2, 269–286.

Malinverno A. & Ryan W.B.F. 1986: Extension in the Tyrrhenian Sea and shortening in the Apennines as a result of arc migration driven by sinking of the lithosphere. Tectonics 5, 227–243.

Marsella E., Bally A. W., Cippitelli G., D’Argenio B. & Pappone G. 1995: Tectonic history of the Lagonegro Domain and Southern Apennine thrust belt evolution. Tectonophysics 252, 307–330.

Mazzoli S., Corrado S., De Donatis M., Scrocca D., Butler R.W.H., Di Bucci D., Naso G., Nicolai C. & Zucconi V. 2000: Time and space variability of thin-skinned and thick skinned thrust tectonics in the Apennines (Italy). Rend. Lincei 9, 11, 5–39.

Mazzotti A., Stucchi E., Fradelizio G., Zanzi L. & Scandone P. 2000: Seismic exploration in complex terrains: A processing experience in the southern Apennines. Geophysics 65, 1402–1417.

Miccadei E., Piacentini T. & Buccolini M. 2014: The long-term geomorphological evolution of the Abruzzo areas. In: Rosskopf C. M. & Aucelli P. P.C. (Eds.): The long-term geomorphological evolution of the Southern Italy landscapes. The local university contributions. AGR Editrice Arti Grafiche la Regione srl, Ripalimosani (CB), 49–64 (in Italian).

Montone P., Amato A. & Pondrelli S. 1999: Active stress map of Italy. J. Geophys. Res. 104, 25595–25610.

Mostardini F. & Merlini S. 1986: Central-Southern Apennines: geological cross-sections and structural model. Mem. Soc. Geo. Ital. 35, 177–202 (in Italian with English abstract).

Pappone G., Aucelli P.P.C., Cesarano M., Putignano M.L. & Ruberti D. 2010: Explanatory notes of the Geological Map of Italy (1:50,000 in scale), 405 sheet “Campobasso”. Servizio Geologico d’Italia. http://www.isprambiente.gov.it/Media/carg/note_illustrative/405_Campobasso.pdf (in Italian with English abstract).

Patacca E. & Scandone P. 2001: Late thrust propagation and sedimentary response in the thrust-belt–foredeep system of the Southern Apennines (Pliocene–Pleistocene). In: Vai G.B. & Martini I.P. (Eds.): Anatomy of an Orogen: The Apennines and Adjacent Mediterranean Basins, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 401–440.

Patacca E. & Scandone P. 2007: Geology of the Southern Apennines. Boll. Soc. Geol. Ital. (Ital. J. Geosci.), Spec. Iss. 7, 75–120.

Patacca E., Sartori R. & Scandone P. 1990: Tyrrhenian Basin and Apenninic arcs: kinematic relations since late Tortonian times. Mem. Soc. Geol. Ital. 45, 425–451.

Patacca E., Scandone P., Bellatalla L., Perilli N. & Santini U. 1992: The junction zone between the Northern and Southern Apenninic arcs in the Abruzzo-Molise areas. Studi Geol. Camerti Spec. Iss. CROP 11, 1991/2, 417–441 (in Italian with English abstract).

Rosskopf C.M. & Scorpio V. 2013: Geomorphologic map of the Biferno River valley floor system (Molise, Southern Italy). Journal of Maps 9, 1, 106–114.

Russo Ermolli E., Aucelli P.P.C., Di Rollo A., Mattei M., Petrosino P., Porreca M. & Rosskopf C.M. 2010: An integrated stratigraphical approach to the late Middle Pleistocene succession of the Sessano lacustrine basin (Molise, Italy). Quat. Int. 225, 114–127.

Schiattarella M., Di Leo P., Beneduce P. & Giano S.I. 2003: Quaternary uplift vs tectonic loading. A case-study from the Lucanian Apennine, southern Italy. Quat. Int. 101–102, 239–251.

Schiattarella M., Di Leo P., Beneduce P., Giano S. I. & Martino C. 2006: Tectonically driven exhumation of a young orogen: An example from the southern Apennines, Italy. Geol. Soc. Am., Spec. Pap. 398, 371–385.

Schiattarella M., Beneduce P., Capolongo D., Di Leo P., Giano S. I., Gioia D., Lazzari M. & Martino C. 2008: Uplift and erosion rates from the southern Apennines, Italy. Boll. Geof. Teor. Appl. 49, 2, 470–475.

Scrocca D. 2010: Southern Apennines: structural setting and tectonic evolution. The geology of Italy: tectonics and life along plate margins. In: Beltrando M., Peccerillo A., Mattei M., Conticelli S. & Doglioni C. (Eds.): Journal of the Virtual Explorer 36, 48–56.

Sgrosso I. & Naso G. (2011): Explanatory notes of the Geological Map of Italy (1:50,000 in scale), 393 sheet “Trivento”. Servizio Geologico d’Italia. http://www.isprambiente.gov.it/Media/carg/note_illustrative/393_Trivento.pdf (in Italian with English abstract).

Vezzani L., Ghisetti F., Festa A. & Follador U. 2004: Explanatory notes of the geological map of Molise Region (1:100,000 in scale). Regione Molise. S.E.L.C.A. Firenze (in Italian with English summary).

Vezzani L., Festa A. & Ghisetti F. 2010: Geology and tectonic evolution of Central-Southern Apennines, Italy. Geol. Soc. Am, Spec. Pap. 469, 1–58.

Wortel M.J.R. & Spakman W. 2000: Subduction and slab detachment in the Mediterranean-Carpathian region. Science 290, 1910–1917.

Geologica Carpathica

The Journal of Geological Institute of Slovak Academy of Sciences

Journal Information

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.169
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.431

CiteScore 2017: 1.26

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.551
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.836

Cited By


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 146 139 8
PDF Downloads 106 105 4