This paper deals with a small continental rift basin in a volcanic setting and tries to decipher potential controls on its synrift sedimentation. The Luanping basin, which is a well-exposed Early Cretaceous rift basin in the Yanshan belt on the northern periphery of the North China block, was chosen as a case study. We show that extensive and vigorous volcanism took place just prior to the onset of basin formation and continued into a synrift period. Basin fills consist predominantly of lacustrine, fan-delta, braid-delta, and volcaniclastic deposits. Lacustrine facies are composed mostly of deep-lake deposits that appear to have been established soon after basin initiation. Fan-delta systems developed along two high-angle border faults, the master northern Hongqi fault and the secondary western Xiaobaiqi fault. Fan-delta fronts were built up primarily by gravelly and sandy debrites and turbidites. Braid-delta deposits are restricted to the eastern corner of the basin and are characterized by an aggregation of braid-plain conglomeratic deposits. Underwater extrusions of magma and pyroclastic flows are inferred from the presence of volcanic breccias, ignimbrites, andesitic pillows, and peperites, which are enclosed by host lacustrine deposits. Deep-lake and fan-delta systems persisted throughout the synrift period, indicating a rapid subsidence rate, with both adequate sediment and water supply. The high-angle border faults are thought to have played a critical role in creating large accommodation space, and simultaneous displacements of the Hongqi and Xiaobaiqi faults led to the localization of a major depocenter in the western part of the basin. One-dimensional backstripping analysis of three stratigraphic sections shows that the Luanping basin experienced marked synrift tectonic subsidence up to 2 km at a subsidence rate close to 0.2 mm yr−1. We propose that the high rate of basin subsidence might have been caused mainly by left-lateral transtensional faulting and was enhanced by the superposition of basement downsag induced by underlying magma withdrawal. A predominance of volcanic particles in both debrites and sandstones suggests that source areas were erodible volcanic edifices. A humid paleoclimate is inferred, which not only provided enough water supply, but also promoted weathering of volcanic rocks in source areas, thus maintaining both the deep-lake environment and sediment influx. We conclude that relatively small and isolated rift basins in volcanic settings can experience both rapid subsidence and receive thick lacustrine deposits if they are under the combined control of favorable structure, climate, and magmatism. The model proposed here is believed to be applicable to other rift basins in similar volcano-tectonic settings.
- Received 16 February 2011.
- Revision received 20 July 2011.
- Accepted 26 July 2011.
- © 2012 Geological Society of America