Freshening of the Mediterranean Salt Giant: controversies and certainties around the terminal (Upper Gypsum and Lago-Mare) phases of the Messinian Salinity Crisis

Federico Andreetto*, Giovanni Aloisi, Fadl Raad, Hanneke Heida, Rachel M Flecker, Konstantina Agiadi, Johanna Lofi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
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The late Miocene evolution of the Mediterranean Basin is characterized by major changes in connectivity, climate and tectonic activity resulting in unprecedented environmental and ecological disruptions. During the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC, 5.97-5.33 Ma) this culminated first in the precipitation of, first, gypsum around the Mediterranean margins (Stage 1, 5.97-5.60 Ma) and subsequently > 2 km of halite on the basin floor, which formed the so-called Mediterranean Salt Giant (Stage 2, 5.60-5.55 Ma). The final MSC Stage 3, however, was characterized by a "low-salinity crisis", when a second calcium-sulfate unit (Upper Gypsum; substage 3.1, 5.55-5.42 Ma) showing (bio)geochemical evidence of substantial brine dilution and brackish fauna-bearing terrigenous sediments (substage 3.2 or Lago-Mare phase, 5.42-5.33 Ma) deposited in a Mediterranean that received relatively large amounts of riverine and Paratethys-derived low-salinity waters. The transition from hypersaline evaporitic (halite) to brackish facies implies a major change in the Mediterranean’s hydrological regime. However, even after nearly 50 years of research, causes and modalities are poorly understood and the original scientific debate between a largely isolated and desiccated Mediterranean or a fully connected and filled basin is still vibrant. Here we present a comprehensive overview that brings together stratigraphic, sedimentological, paleontological, geochemical and seismic data from all over the Mediterranean. We summarize the paleoenvironmental, paleohydrological and paleoconnectivity scenarios that arose from this cross-disciplinary dataset and we discuss arguments in favour of and against each scenario.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103577
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Early online date3 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the entire SALTGIANT community for many profitable workshops that inspired the development of this manuscript. This research was supported by the project SALTGIANT-Understanding the Mediterranean Salt Giant, a European project which has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie [grant agreement No 765256]. We greatly thank the two reviewers Domenico Cosentino and William Ryan and the editor Alessandra Negri for the fruitful comments provided that led to a substantial improvement of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • Messinian Salinity Crisis
  • Lago-Mare
  • Paratethys
  • Paleogeography
  • Connectivity proxies
  • Mediterranean stratigraphy


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    Flecker, R. M. & Andreetto, F.


    Project: Research

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