Skip to main content Accessibility help

A hydrogeological model for palygorskite formation in the Danian continental facies of the Provence Basin (France)

  • J. Colson (a1), I. Cojan (a1) and M. Thiry (a2)


The Danian of the Provence basin (SE France) is characterized by a strong subatmospheric alteration processes throughout the basin. A wide range of facies, depositional and weathering, were recognized in an interval of 5 Myr and include floodplain fine-grained alluvium, palustrine limestones, playa dolostones, mottled palaeosols, vadose and phreatic calcretes, and phreatic dolocretes. Palygorskite was invariably found in laminar, massive and honeycomb vadose calcretes and phreatic dolocretes, as well as in playa dolostones, and only exceptionally in floodplain siltstones, nodular calcretes and palustrine limestones. Regardless of the facies, palygorskite is associated with smectites. An authigenic origin, based on the morphology of the fibres and the vertical distribution of clay minerals, is proposed for palygorskites in all of the facies. The simultaneous occurrence of palygorskite in these environments is interpreted as a sign of a stable seasonal semi-arid climate and low detrital input during a period of low lake level (-0.5 Myr). The occurrence of authigenic palygorskite in siltstones around the lake was attributed to the rising of the water table, retention of the already saturated water in the pore spaces of the sediment, and its subsequent evaporation in a confined environment. A hydrogeological model is proposed for the distribution of palygorskite. The elongated shape of the Provence basin enhanced the influence of lateral inflow of freshwater during the low lake period which explains the distribution of palygorskite in different environments of the Provence basin as well as spatial distribution of phreatic calcretes and dolocretes. During the high lake level, palygorskite formed in the few remaining ephemeral ponds and on the floodplain along the lake margin.



Hide All
Arakel, A.V. (1986) Evolution of calcrete in palaeodrainages of the lake Napper Area, central Australia. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimat. Palaeoecol. 54, 283-303.
Arnaud, M. & Monleau, C. (1979) Etude de l'évolution d'une plateforme carbonatée: exemple de la Provence au Jurassique. PhD thesis, Univ. Provence, France.
Bachmann, G.D. & Machette, M.N. (1977) Calcic soils and calcretes in the south western United States. U.S. Geol. Survey, Open File Report 77-794, 163 pp.
Bowler, J.M. (1986) Spatial variability and hydrologic evolution of Australian lake basins: Analogue for Pleistocene hydrologic change and formation. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimat. PalaeoecoL 54, 21–41.
Cande, S. & Kent, D. (1992) A new geomagnetic polarity time scale for the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic. J. Geophy. Res. 97, 13 917-13 951.
Cande, S. & Kent, D. (1995) Revised calibration of the geomagnetic polarity timescale for the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic. J. Geophy. Res. 100, 60936095.
Carlisle, D. (1983) Concentration of uranium and vanadium in calcretes and gypcretes. Pp. 185-195 in: Residual Deposits (Wilson, R.C.L., editor), GeoL Soc. London Spec. Publ. 11, Blackwell Scientific Publ., Oxford.
Chahi, A., Duplay, J. & Lucas, J. (1993) Analyses of palygorskites and associated clays from the Jbel Rhassoul (Morocco): Chemical characteristics and origin of formation. Clays Clay Miner. 41, 401 –411.
Chamley, H. (1989) Clay Sedimentology. Springer Verlag, Berlin.
Chamley, H. & Bonnot-Courtois, C. (1981) Argiles authigbnes et terrigènes de l'Atlantique et du Pacifique NW (Legs 11 et 58 DSDP): apport des terres rares. Oceanol. Acta, 4, 229–238.
Cojan, I. (1989) Structure diapirique contrô1ant la sédimentation. Séries continentales de Provence (Rians - K/T). 2nd French Sedimentological Cong. Paris, 79-80.
Cojan, I. (1993) Alternating fluvial and lacustrine sedimentation: tectonic and climatic controls (Provence Basin, S. France, Upper Cretaceous/ Palaeocene). Pp. 425-438 in: Alluvial Sedimentation (Marzo, M. & Puigdefabregas, C., editors) Int. Assoc. Sediment. Spec. Publ. 17.
Cojan, I., Iatzoura, A. & Renard, M. (1992) Geochemical approach of paleoenvironments and climate in continental formation (Upper Cretaceous, Provence - France). Int. Global Correl. Pro. 324, Ann. Meeting, Madrid, 21-23.
Colson, J. & Cojan, I. (1996) Groundwater dolocretes in a lake marginal environment: an alternative model for the dolocrete formation in the continental setting (Danian of the Provence basin, France). Sedimentology, 43, 175-188.
Cornet, C. (1974) Sur l'existence d'un niveau repère à attapulgite au sein du remplissage des fossés Nord Varois (Provence). C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 278, 809811.
Cornet, C. (1977) Etude préliminaire des minéraux argileux des s6éries continentales du Crétacé supérieur et du Tertiaire des fossés Nord Varois (Provence). Géol. Méditerranéenne, 4, 379–382.
Couture, R.A. (1977) Composition and origin of palygorskite-rich and montmorillonite-rich zeolite containing sediments from Pacific Ocean. Chem. Geol. 19, 113130.
Curtis, C.D. (1990) Aspects of climatic influence on the clay mineralogy and geochemistry of soils, paleosols and clastic sedimentary rocks. J. Geol. Soc. London, 147, 351357.
Debrabant, P. & Foulon, J. (1979) Expression géochimique des variations du paléoenvironnement depuis le Jurasslque supérieur sur les marges nord-atlantiques. Oceanol. Acta, 2, 469475.
Deconinck, J.-F. & Accarie, H. (1990) Palygorskite and eustatism during Mid-Cretaceous in the Maiella Mountain (Abruzzi, Central Italy). Proc. 9th Int. Clay Con[. Strasbourg, 88, 1520.
Djurdjevic-Colson, J. (1996) Découpage séquentiel de dépots fluviolacustres à paléosols carbonatés. Interprétation climatique et hydrologique (Danien, bassin d'Aix-en-Provence, France). Mém. Sci. de la Terre ENSMP Paris, 26, 175 pp.
Durand, J.P. (1989) Le synclinal de l'Arc et la limite Crétacé-Paléocène. Cah. Réser, Géol. Haute Provence, 1, 2–10.
Durand, J.P., Acquaviva, M. & Giroud d'Argoud, G. (1974) Sur les minéraux argileux du Paléocéne du synclinal de l'Arc (région d'Aix-enProvence). C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 79, 18491852.
Elgabaly, M.M. (1962) The presence of attapulgite in some soils of the western desert of Egypt. Soil Sci. 93, 387390.
Eswaran, H. & Barzanji, A.F. (1974) Evidence for neoformation of attapulgite in some arid soils of Iraq. Trans. lOth Int. Cong. Soil Sci. Moscow, 7. 154-161.
Freytet, P. & Plaziat, J.-C. (1982) Continental Carbonate Sedimentation and Pedogenesis – Late Cretaceous and Early Tertiary of Southern France. Contributions to Sedim. 12, Springer Verlag, Stuttgart, 213 pp.
Galán, E. & Castillo, A. (1984) Sepiolite-palygorskite in Spanish Tertiary basins: Genetical patterns in continental environments. Pp. 87–124 in: Palygorskite and Sepiolite. Occurrences, Genesis and Uses. (A. Singer & Galán, E., editors), Developments in Sedimentology 37, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Galbrun, B., Rasplus, L. & Durand, J.-P. (1991) La limite Crétacé Tertiaire dans le domaine provençal: étude magnétostratigraphique du passage Rognacien-Vitrollien à l'Ouest du synclinal de l'Arc. C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 312, 14671473.
Gile, L.H., Peterson, F.F. & Grossman, R.B. (1966) Morphological and genetic sequences of carbonate accumulation in desert soils. Soil Sci. 101, 347–360.
Grousset, F., Latouche, C. & Parra, M. (1982) Late Quaternary sedimentation between the Gibbs fracture and the Greenland basin: mineralogical and geochemical data. Marine Geol. 47, 303–330.
Halitim, A., Robert, M. & Pedro, G. (1983) Etude expérimentale de l'épigénie calcaire des silicates en milieu confiné. Caractérisation des conditions de son développement et des modalités de sa mise en jeu. Sci. Géol. Mém. Strasbourg, 71, 6373.
Hansen, H.J., Gwozdz, R. & Rasmussen, K.L. (1989) The continental Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in the Aixen- Provence region, South France. A preliminary paleomagnetic study. Cah. Réser. Géol. Haute Provence, 1, 43–50.
Inglès, M. & Anadon, P. (1991) Relationship of clay minerals to depositional environment in the nonmarine Eocene Pontils Group, SE Ebro Basin (Spain). J. Sed. Pet. 61, 926936.
Jacobson, G., Arakel, A.V. & Yijian Ch. (1988) The central Australian groundwater discharge zone: Evolution of associated calcrete and gypcrete deposits. Austral. J. Earth Sci. 35, 549565.
Jones, B.F. & Galán, E. (1988) Sepiolite and palygorskite. Pp. 631-674 in: Hydrous Phyllosilicates (Bailey, S.W., editor), Reviews in Mineralogy, 19, Miner. Soc. Amer.
Longman, M.W. & Mench, P.A. (1978) Diagenesis of Cretaceous limestones in the Edwards aquifer system of south-central Texas: a scanning electron microscopy study. Sedim. Geol. 21, 241276.
Machette, M.N. (1985) Calcic soils of South Western United States. Pp. 1-21 in: Soils and Quaternary Geology of the South Western United States (Weide, D.L., editor), Geol. Soc. Amer. Spec. Paper, 203.
McGrath, D.A. (1984) Morphological and mineralogical characteristics of indurated caliches of the Llano Estacado. MS thesis, Texas Technical Univ., USA.
Millot, G. (1964) G∼ologie des Argiles. Masson et Compagnie, Paris, 499 pp.
Millot, G., Nahon, D., Paquet, H., Ruellan, A. & Tardy, Y. (1977) L'épigénie calcaire des roches silicatées dans les encroutements carbonatés en pays subaride, Anti-Atlas, Maroc. Sci. Gdol. Bull. Strasbourg, 30, 129152.
Mosser, C. (1983) Elements traces des argiles: des marqueurs. Clay Miner. 18, 139–151.
Netterberg, F. (1980) Geology of Southern African calcretes: 1. Terminology, description, macrofeatures and classification. Trans. Geol. Soc. S. Africa, 83, 255283.
Paquet, H. (1970) Evolution géochimique des minéraux argileux dans les alterations et les sols des climats méditerranéens et tropicaux à saisons contrastées. Mém. Serv. Carte Géol. Alsace Lorraine, 30, 212 pp.
Paquet, H. (1983) Stability, instability and significance of attapulgite in the calcretes of mediterranean and tropical areas with marked dry season. Sci. Gdol. Mém. Strasbourg, 72, 131140.
Rodas, M., Luque, F.J., Mas, R. & Garzon, M.G. (1994) Calcretes, palycretes and silcretes in the Paleogene detrital sediments of the Duero and Tajo basins, central Spain. Clay Miner. 29, 273-285.
Ruellan, A. (1971) Contribution à la connaissance des sols de régions méditerranéennes: les sols à profils calcaires différencié des plaines de la Basse Moulouya (Maroc oriental). Mem. ORSTOM, France, 54, 302 pp.
Singer, A. (1984a) The paleoclimatic interpretation of clay minerals in sediments – a review. Earth Sci. Reviews, 21, 251293.
Singer, A. (1984b) Pedogenic palygorskite in the arid environment. Pp. 169–176 in: Palygorskite and Sepiolite: Occurrences, Genesis and Uses (Singer, A. & Galán, E., editors), Developments in Sedimentology 37, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Singer, A. & Norrish, K. (1974) Pedogenic palygorskite occurrences in Australia. Am. Miner. 59, 508–517.
Sittler, C. (1965) Le Paléogène des fossés Rhénan et Rhodanien. Etudes sédimentologiques et paléoclimatiques. Mém. Serv. Carte Géol. Alsace Lorraine, 24, 392 pp.
Sittler, C. & Millot, G. (1964) Les climats du Paléogène français reconstitués par les argiles néoformées et les microflores. Geol. Rundschau, 54, 333–343.
Thiry, M., Forette, N. & Schmitt, J.M. (1983) Technique de diffraction des rayons X et interprétation des diagrammes. Note technique ENSMP, Paris, 51 pp.
Trauth, N. (1977) Argiles évaporitiques dans la sedimentation carbonatée continentale et épicontinentale tertiaire. Bassins de Paris, de Mormoiron et de Salinelles (France), Jbel Ghassoul (Maroc). Sci. Géol. Mdm. Strasbourg, 49, 203 pp.
Velde, B. (1985) Clay Minerals. A Physico-chemical Explanation of their Occurrence. Developments in Sedimentology, 40, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Verrecchia, E.P. & Le Coustumer, M.-N. (1996) Occurrence and genesis of palygorskite and associated clay minerals in a Pleistocene calcrete complex. Sde Boqer, Negev Desert, Israel. Clay Miner. 31, 183202.
Wang, Y., Nahon, D. & Merino, E. (1994) Dynamic model of the genesis of calcretes replacing silicate rocks in semi-arid regions. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 58, 51315145.
Watts, N.L. (1980) Quaternary pedogenic calcretes from the Kalahari (Southern Africa): mineralogy, genesis and diagenesis. Sedimentology, 27, 661686.
Weaver, C.E. & Beck, K.C. (1977) Miocene of the SE United States: a model for chemical sedimentation in a perimarine environment. Sedim. Geol. 17, 1–234.
Westphal, M. & Durand, J.P. (1990) Magnéto-stratigraphie des séries continentales fiuviolacustres du Crétacé supérieur dans le synclinal de l'Arc (région d'Aix-en-Provence, France). Bull. Soc. Géol. France, 8, 609621.
Wright, V.P. (1992) Palaeosol recognition: A guide to early diagenesis in terrestrial setting. Pp. 591–619 in: Diagenesis III (Wolf, K.H. & Chilingarian, G.V., editors), Developments in Sedimentology, 47, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Wright, V.P. & Tucker, M.E. (1991) Calcretes – an introduction. Pp. 1 -22 in: Calcretes (Wright, V.P. & Tucher, M.E., editors), Int. Assoc. Sediment. Reprint Set. 2, Blackwell Scientific Publ., Oxford.
Yaalon, D. & Wieder, M. (1976) Pedogenic palygorskite in some arid brown (calciorthid) soils of Israel. Clay Miner. 11, 7380.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

A hydrogeological model for palygorskite formation in the Danian continental facies of the Provence Basin (France)

  • J. Colson (a1), I. Cojan (a1) and M. Thiry (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.