Late Pliocene-Quaternary tectonics in the frontal part of the SE Carpathians: Insights from tectonic geomorphology

Diana Necea*, Werner Fielitz, Liviu Matenco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Romanian East Carpathians display large-scale heterogeneities along the mountain belt, unusual foredeep geometries, significant post-collisional and neotectonic activity, and major variations in topography, mostly developed in the aftermath of late Miocene (Sarmatian; ∼11 Ma) subduction/underthrusting and continental collision between the East European/Scythian/Moesian foreland and the inner Carpathians Tisza-Dacia unit. In particular, the SE corner of the arcuate orogenic belt represents the place of still active large-scale differential vertical movements between the uplifting mountain chain and the subsiding Focşani foredeep basin. In this key area, we have analysed the configuration of the present day landforms and the drainage patterns in order to quantify the amplitude, timing and kinematics of these post-collisional late Pliocene-Quaternary vertical movements. A river network is incising in the upstream a high topography consisting of the external Carpathians nappes and the Pliocene-Lower Pleistocene sediments of the foreland. Further eastwards in the downstream, this network is cross-cutting a low topography consisting of the Middle Pleistocene-Holocene sediments of the foreland. Geological observations and well-preserved geomorphic features demonstrate a complex succession of geological structures. The late Pliocene-Holocene tectonic evolution is generally characterised by coeval uplift in the mountain chain and subsidence in the foreland. At a more detailed scale, these vertical movements took place in pulses of accelerated motion, with laterally variable amplitude both in space and in time. After a first late Pliocene uplifting period, subsidence took place during the Earliest Pleistocene resulting in a basal Quaternary unconformity. This was followed by two, quantifiable periods of increased uplift, which affected the studied area at the transition between the Carpathians orogen and the Focşani foreland basin in the late Early Pleistocene and the late Middle to late Pleistocene. Both large-scale deformation events affected the western Focşani basin flank, tilting the entire structure with ∼9° during the late Early Pleistocene and uplifted it as a block during the early Late Pleistocene. The late Early Pleistocene tilting resulted in ∼750 m uplift near the frontal monocline and by extrapolation in a presumed 3000 m uplift near the central parts of the Carpathians. The late Middle to late Pleistocene cumulative uplift reaches ∼250 m and correlates with a contemporaneous progradation of the uplifted areas towards the Focşni Basin. The uplifting events are separated by a second Quaternary unconformity. On the whole, the late Pliocene-Quaternary evolution of the Carpathians orogen/Focşani basin structure indicate large-scale differential uplift during the latest stages of a continuous post-collisional orogenic evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-156
Number of pages20
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2005


  • East Romanian Carpathians
  • Fluvial terraces
  • Focşani basin
  • Quaternary
  • Tectonic geomorphology
  • Uplift


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