Despite intensive research efforts and significant advances in the understanding of subduction and obduction processes that affected several units which at the present day compose the Western Alps, the paleogeographic evolution of the Alpine Tethys represents a debated topic in Alpine geology. The role of the opposing continental margins (passive European margin and active Adriatic margin) as source regions for Cretaceous siliciclastic turbidites bordering the convergent system remains disputed. To address this question along the Ligurian Alps transect, a multi-proxy provenance analysis is applied to the two terrigenous superimposed units (Hauterivian-Campanian San Bartolomeo Fm. and Campanian-Maastrichtian Bordighera Sandstone) of the San Remo-Monte Saccarello Unit of the Western Ligurian Flysch complex. Petrographic analyses characterize the basal San Bartolomeo Fm. as quartz-rich mature sandstones. By contrast, the overlying Bordighera Sandstone represents texturally and compositionally immature first-cycle arkosic arenites. This change records the evolution of the sediment provenance from a stable craton into a continental basement uplift setting, reflecting erosion of granitoid plutons and the low-grade metamorphic basement. Geochronological data (U-Pb detrital zircon ages) indicate that virtually the same source terranes provided the source for both formations. The detrital age spectra display age peaks are compatible with well-documented magmatic and metamorphic pulses that affected the Southern Variscides in the Paleo-European margin. The strong affinity of clastic detritus with the Paleo-European margin basement rocks underlines the importance of the lower plate passive continental margin in supplying sand-rich turbidite systems prior to the arrival of the passive margin in the subduction zone. (C) 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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