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Tectonostratigraphic Evolution of Falkland (Malvinas) Plateau

Parke D. Snavely

The Falkland (a.k.a. Malvinas) Plateau, offshore southern Argentina, came into being as the result of the Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous breakup of west Gondwanaland and the opening of the South Atlantic.

As the trailing edge of the South American plate, this continental salient has periodically interacted with the African, Antarctic, Scotia, and Nazca plates, recording the complex history of Mesozoic and Cenozoic plate reorganization in the Southern Hemisphere.

The pelagic depositional setting of the plateau following its separation from Africa has resulted in the accumulation of a relatively thin post-rift sedimentary section. This has allowed not only local penetration of the lower Mesozoic section by borehole but also seismic resolution of the pre- and syn-rift strata beyond that generally obtainable from the thick marine basins of the Argentine or South African continental shelves. These subsurface data have been used to compile a relatively complete depositional and tectonic history for the Falkland Plateau which may be applied, by analogy, to sedimentary basins of similar age along the circum-Gondwana perimeter.

Three principal tectonic events appear to have influenced the type and orientation of structures and the distribution of stratal patterns presently observed on the Falkland Plateau. These are (1) a Permo-Triassic compressional event (Cape orogeny) that resulted in the formation of a foldbelt running from northwest Argentina through South Africa and across the Falkland Plateau to Antarctica, (2) the two-stage breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent from Late Triassic to Early Cretaceous time, and (3) the Tertiary opening of the Drake Passage and the formation of the Scotia Sea.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91038©1987 AAPG Annual Convention, Los Angeles, California, June 7-10, 1987.