Cenozoic evolution of a fragmented foreland basin, Altiplano plateau, southern Peru
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Debate persists on the timing, magnitude and style of crustal shortening, uplift and basin evolution in the Andes. Many studies suggest that the central Andes, including the Altiplano plateau, were gradually uplifted as a result of protracted Cenozoic retroarc shortening. However, recent isotopic studies conclude that the Andes instead rose in pulses, with the most significant event occurring at 10-6 Ma. Many researchers attribute these rapid pulses of uplift to lower lithosphere delamination events. A better understanding of the history of Cenozoic crustal shortening is essential for determination of the mechanism(s) of Andean uplift. The well-exposed Cenozoic San Jerónimo Group was studied in the Ayaviri basin of the northern Altiplano in southern Peru. The 3-5 km-thick succession is situated at 3900-4800 m elevation, between the Western Cordillera magmatic arc and the Eastern Cordillera fold-thrust-belt. New detrital zircon U-Pb geochronological results from four sandstones and one reworked tuff in the San Jerónimo succession show large age populations indicative of syndepositional volcanism between approximately 38 and 27 Ma. A 1600-m-thick magnetostratigraphic section further constrains the depositional timing and accumulation rate of the upper portion of the succession. Sedimentological observations show a rapid transition from cross-stratified braided-fluvial sandstones to proximal channel-fill and alluvial-fan conglomerates at ~30 Ma. Paleocurrent measurements show important temporal and spatial variations in sediment dispersal patterns while conglomerate clast counts show an upsection transition from almost exclusively volcanic input to increasing contributions of clastic, quartzite, and limestone detritus. The corresponding shifts in depositional environment and sediment provenance are attributed to the activation of new thrust structures in close proximity to the basin, namely the Pucapuca-Sorapata fault system, indicating the presence of an eastward advancing fold-thrust belt dating to at least 38 Ma and reaching the Ayaviri basin within the northern Altiplano plateau at ~30 Ma.