Lake formation, characteristics, and evolution in retroarc deposystems: A synthesis of the modern Andean orogen and its associated basins

Andrew Cohen, Michael M. McGlue, Geoffrey S. Ellis, Hiran Zani, Peter W. Swarzenski, Mario L. Assine, Aguinaldo Silva

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

31 Scopus citations


Lake deposystems are commonly associated with retroarc mountain belts in the geological record. These deposystems are poorly characterized in modern retroarcs, placing limits on our ability to interpret environmental signals from ancient deposits. To address this problem, we have synthesized our existing knowledge about the distribution, morphometrics, and sedimentary geochemical characteristics of tectonically formed lakes in the central Andean retroarc. Large, active mountain belts such as the Andes frequently create an excess of sediment, to the point that modeling and observational data both suggest their adjacent retroarc basins will be rapidly overfilled by sediments. Lake formation, requiring topographic closure, demands special conditions such as topographic isolation and arid climatic conditions to reduce sediment generation, and bedrock lithologies that yield little siliciclastic sediment. Lacustrine deposition in the modern Andean retroarc has different characteristics in the six major morphotectonic zones discussed. (1) High-elevation hinterland basins of the arid Puna-Altiplano Plateau frequently contain underfilled and balanced-filled lakes that are potentially long-lived and display relatively rapid sedimentation rates. (2) Lakes are rare in piggyback basins, although a transition zone exists where basins that originally formed as piggybacks are transferred to the hinterland through forward propagation of the thrust belt. Here, lakes are moderately abundant and long-lived and display somewhat lower sedimentation rates than in the hinterland. (3) Wedge-top and (4) foredeep deposystems of the Andean retroarc are generally overfilled, and lakes are small and ephemeral. (5) Semihumid Andean backbulge basins contain abundant small lakes, which are moderately long-lived because of underfilling by sediment and low sedimentation rates. (6) Broken foreland lakes are common, typically underfilled, large, and long-lived playa or shallow systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGeodynamics of a Cordilleran Orogenic System
Subtitle of host publicationThe Central Andes of Argentina and Northern Chile
EditorsMihai N. Ducea, Mihai N. Ducea, Peter G. DeCelles, Paul A. Kapp, Barbara Carrapa
PublisherGeological Society of America
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780813712123
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NameMemoir of the Geological Society of America
ISSN (Print)0072-1069

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Geological Society of America. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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