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Forearc Sedimentation in Terraba Trough, Costa Rica, Central America

Peter B. Yuan, Donald R. Lowe

Sedimentary rocks of Terraba Trough, Costa Rica, were deposited in a forearc basin developed at an ocean-ocean convergent boundary. The basin developed in the middle to late Eocene when the Farallon plate began its subduction beneath the Caribbean plate. Shallow-water carbonates of the Brito Formation were deposited on shoals of basement blocks. These were surrounded by deeper marine areas in which volcaniclastics and carbonate debris accumulated. The Brito Formation consists of algal-foraminiferal packstone to grainstone, rudstone, and rare wackestone formed in fore-slope, carbonate buildup, and open platform environments in a warm, tropical sea.

The Eocene Brito Formation is overlain by rocks of the upper Oligocene Rio Claro Member of the Terraba Formation. It is composed of rhodolite and bioclastic grainstone deposited in shallow water. A combination of little subsidence, mild volcanism, and possible erosion at about 30 Ma during a global drop of sea level may be responsible for the absence of lower Oligocene rocks in the study area.

After the deposition of the Rio Claro Member, the area subsided rapidly to become a trough possibly deeper than 2,000 m. Sedimentation took place in deep water from sediment gravity flows. In the early to early middle Miocene, coarser sediments and thicker sand units containing coal fragments became more abundant, suggesting that the basin was gradually filled.

This study indicates that the timing and degree of subsidence of the fore-arc basin and the vertical variation in lithology are closely related to the variation in convergence rate between lithospheric plates in this part of Central America and the eastern Pacific.

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