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Juergen Gusterhuber, István Dunkl, Ralph Hinsch, Hans-Gert Linzer and Reinhard Sachsenhofer

Neogene uplift and erosion in the Alpine Foreland Basin (Upper Austria and Salzburg)

In the present paper we apply a multi-technique approach (shale compaction data, seismic stratigraphy, isopach maps, moisture content of lignite, fission track data) to assess timing and amount of uplift and erosion of the Alpine Foreland Basin. The combination of the different techniques allows us to discriminate the effects of two different erosion events during the Neogene: (1) Seismic stratigraphy and isopach maps indicate a Karpatian (Early Miocene) regional tilting of the basin to the west (slope of about 0.5 %) and a minor erosion phase. (2) Moisture content of lignite combined with fission track data provides evidence for extensive regional uplift after deposition of Late Miocene fluvial deposits. It is estimated that sediments, 500 to 900 m thick, have been eroded. Shale compaction data derived from sonic logs indicates additional uplift of the eastern part of the basin (near the river Enns). Here, 300 to 1000 m of sediments were additionally eroded (giving a total erosion of about 1000 to 1900 m!), with a general increase of erosion thickness towards the northeast. While the regional uplift is probably related to isostatic rebound of the Alps after termination of thrusting, the local uplift in the east could be affected by Late Neogene E-W compressional events within the Alpine-Pannonian system. Both, tilting and erosion influence the hydrocarbon habitat in the Molasse Basin (tilting of oil-water contacts, PVT conditions, biodegradation).

Open access

Franz Neubauer, Bianca Heberer, István Dunkl, Xiaoming Liu, Manfred Bernroider and Yunpeng Dong


In the south-eastern Eastern Alps, the Reifnitz tonalite intruded into the Austroalpine metamorphic basement of the Wörthersee half-window exposed north of the Sarmatian–Pliocene flexural Klagenfurt basin. The Reifnitz tonalite is dated for the first time, and yields a laser ICP-MS U–Pb zircon age of 30.72±0.30 Ma. The (U–Th–Sm)/He apatite age of the tonalite is 27.6 ± 1.8 Ma implying rapid Late Oligocene cooling of the tonalite to ca. 60 °C. The Reifnitz tonalite intruded into a retrogressed amphibolite-grade metamorphic basement with a metamorphic overprint of Cretaceous age (40Ar/39Ar white mica plateau age of 90.7 ± 1.6 Ma). This fact indicates that pervasive Alpine metamorphism of Cretaceous age extends southwards almost up to the Periadriatic fault. Based on the exhumation and erosion history of the Reifnitz tonalite and the hosting Wörthersee half window formed by the Wörthersee anticline, the age of gentle folding of Austroalpine units in the south-eastern part of the Eastern Alps is likely of Oligocene age. North of the Wörthersee antiform, Upper Cretaceous–Eocene, Oligocene and Miocene sedimentary rocks of the Krappfeld basin are preserved in a gentle synform, suggesting that the top of the Krappfeld basin has always been near the Earth’s surface since the Late Cretaceous. The new data imply, therefore, that the Reifnitz tonalite is part of a post-30 Ma antiform, which was likely exhumed, uplifted and eroded in two steps. In the first step, which is dated to ca. 31–27 Ma, rapid cooling to ca. 60 °C and exhumation occurred in an E–W trending antiform, which formed as a result of a regional N–S compression. In the second step of the Sarmatian–Pliocene age a final exhumation occurred in the peripheral bulge in response to the lithospheric flexure in front of the overriding North Karawanken thrust sheet. The Klagenfurt basin developed as a flexural basin at the northern front of the North Karawanken, which represent a transpressive thrust sheet of a positive flower structure related to the final activity along the Periadriatic fault. In the Eastern Alps, on a large scale, the distribution of Periadriatic plutons and volcanics seems to monitor a northward or eastward shift of magmatic activity, with the main phase of intrusions ca. 30 Ma at the fault itself.