Lakes as paleoseismic records in a seismically-active, low-relief area (Rieti Basin, central Italy)

Claire Archer, Paula Noble, Michael R. Rosen, Leonardo Sagnotti, Fabio Florindo, Scott Mensing, Gianluca Piovesan, Alessandro Maria Michetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Small lakes in low relief areas are atypical candidates for studies on paleoseismicity, but their sediments can contain seismically induced event layers (seismites) generated through strong ground shaking, sediment transport, hydrological reorganization and/or changes in groundwater chemistry and flow. Lakes Lungo and Ripasottile are shallow lakes (<10 m deep) located in the tectonically active Rieti Basin in the central Apennines, Italy, where strong normal faulting earthquakes (Mw 6.5 to 7.0) regularly occur. Sediment cores from these lakes provide paleoseismic indicators for the past ∼1000 years. Sedimentological and geochemical analysis reveals four event layers identified in both lakes that correspond with documented large-scale earthquakes in 1298, 1349, 1639, and 1703 AD. Chronological correlation between earthquakes and paleoseismic features is reliable because of the resolution of sediment dating available for the studied cores. The common physical structure is a physically homogenous bed (homogenite) of re-suspended sediment consisting of a denser, high magnetic susceptibility (κ) clastic base, with organic matter concentrated above. Co-seismic to post-seismic chemical signatures are associated with some event layers and may represent abrupt or transient shifts to a groundwater-dominated system, or permanent changes in groundwater flow and/or spring discharge. Excursions in δ 13 C org may represent disruptions or changes in carbon source. Not all event layers show the same features, a result attributed to differences in seismic processes as well as the lake attributes, and anthropogenic modification. The observations made here may provide a new means of detecting paleoseismicity and may be applied to other low relief lakes in seismically active areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-207
Number of pages22
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - May 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by a U.S. National Science Foundation grant ( GSS-1228126 ) awarded to Dr. Mensing and Dr. Noble.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Central Italy
  • Limnology
  • Paleolimnology
  • Paleomagnetism
  • Paleoseismicity
  • Scanning XRF
  • Stable isotopes

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