Andreetto F, Aloisi G, Raad F, Heida, H., Garcia-Castellanos, D., et al. Freshening of the Mediterranean Salt Giant: controversies and certainties around the terminal (Upper Gypsum and Lago-Mare) phases of the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Earth-Science Rev. 2021;216:103577. doi:


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 in most scenarios first in the precipitation of 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 biota-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 (partly) desiccated Mediterranean or a fully connected and filled basin is still vibrant. Here we present a comprehensive overview that brings together (chrono)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.

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