Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-mm7gn Total loading time: 0.96 Render date: 2022-08-12T02:49:22.543Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Neogene sediments and modern depositional environments of the Zagros foreland basin system

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2011

Université de Genève, Département de Géologie et Paléontologie, Rue des Maraîchers 13, CH-1205 Geneva, Switzerland
Université de Genève, Département de Géologie et Paléontologie, Rue des Maraîchers 13, CH-1205 Geneva, Switzerland
Exploration Department, Mining Engineering Faculty, University College of Engineering, University of Tehran, North Kargar St, P.O. Box 1439, 957131, Tehran, Iran
Geological Survey of Iran, Ahwaz Branch, Ahwaz, Kiyan Abad, Shahid Vahabi St, No. 130, P.O. Box 6155656371, Iran
Author for correspondence:


A sedimentological investigation of the Neogene deposits of the Zagros foreland basin in SW Iran reveals a continuous and largely gradational passage from supratidal and sabkha sediments at the base (represented by the Gachsaran Formation) to carbonates and marine marls (Mishan Formation with basal Guri carbonate member) followed by coastal plain and meandering river deposits (Agha Jari Formation) and finally to braided river gravel sheets (Bakhtyari Formation). This vertical succession is interpreted to represent the southward migration of foreland basin depozones (from distal foredeep and foredeep to distal wedge-top and proximal wedge-top, respectively) as the Zagros fold–thrust belt migrated progressively southward towards the Arabian foreland. This vertical succession bears a striking similarity to modern depositional environments and sedimentary deposits observed in the Zagros region today, where one passes from mainly braided rivers in the Zagros Mountains to meandering rivers close to the coast, to shallow marine clastic sediments along the northern part of the Persian Gulf and finally to carbonate ramp and sabkha deposits along the southeastern coast of the Persian Gulf. This link between the Neogene succession and the modern-day depositional environments strongly suggests that the major Neogene formations of the Zagros foreland basin are strongly diachronous (as shown recently by others) and have active modern-day equivalents.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adamia, S. A., Chkhotua, T., Kekelia, M., Lordkipanidze, M. I. & Shavishvili, I. 1981. Tectonics of the Caucasus and adjoining regions: implications for evolution of the Tethys ocean. Journal of Structural Geology 3, 437–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Agard, P., Omrani, J., Jolivet, L. & Mouthereau, F. 2005. Convergence history across Zagros (Iran): constraints from collisional and earlier deformation. International Journal of Earth Sciences 94, 401–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ala, M. A. 1982. Chronology of trap formation and migration of hydrocarbons in Zagros sector of southwest Iran. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin 66, 1535–41.Google Scholar
Ala, M. A., Kinghorn, R. R. F. & Rahman, M. 1980. Organic geochemistry and source rock characteristics of the Zagros petroleum province, southwest Iran. Journal of Petroleum Geology 3, 6189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alavi, M. 2004. Regional stratigraphy of the Zagros fold-thrust belt of Iran and its proforeland evolution. American Journal of Science 304, 120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alavi, M. 2007. Structures of the Zagros fold-thrust belt in Iran. American Journal of Science 307, 1064–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Allen, M. B. & Armstrong, H. A. 2008. Arabia-Eurasia collision and the forcing of mid-Cenozoic global cooling. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 265, 52–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Allen, M. B., Blanc, E. J-P., Walker, R., Jackson, J., Talebian, M. & Ghassemi, M. R. 2006. Contrasting styles of convergence in the Arabia-Eurasia collision: why escape tectonics does not occur in Iran. Special Papers of the Geological Society of America 409, 579–89.Google Scholar
Allen, M., Jackson, J. & Walker, R. 2004. Late Cenozoic reorganization of the Arabia-Eurasia collision and the comparison of short-term and long-term deformation rates. Tectonics 23, C2008, doi:10.1029/2003TC001530, 16 pp.Google Scholar
Aubourg, C., Smith, B., Bakhtari, H. R., Guya, N. & Eshtaghi, A. 2008. Tertiary block rotations in the Fars arc (Zagros, Iran). Geophysical Journal International 173, 659–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bahroudi, A. & Koyi, H. A. 2003. Effects of spatial distribution of Hormuz salt on deformation style in the Zagros fold and thrust belt: an analogue modelling approach. Journal of the Geological Society, London 160, 719–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bahroudi, A. & Koyi, H. A. 2004. Tectono-sedimentary framework of the Gachsaran formation in the Zagros foreland basin. Marine and Petroleum Geology 21, 1295–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bahroudi, A. & Talbot, C. J. 2003. The configuration of the basement beneath the Zagros basin. Journal of Petroleum Geology 26, 257–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ballato, P., Uba, C. E., Landgraf, A., Strecker, M. R., Sudo, M., Stockli, D., Friedrich, A. & Tabatabaei, S. H. 2011. Arabia-Eurasia continental collision: insights from late Tertiary foreland-basin evolution in the Alborz Mountains, northern Iran. Geological Society of America Bulletin 123, 106–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berberian, M. & King, G. C. P. 1981. Towards a paleogeography and tectonic evolution of Iran. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 18, 210–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beydoun, Z. R. 1991. Arabian plate hydrocarbon geology and potential – a plate tectonic approach. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Studies in Geology 33, 77 pp.Google Scholar
Beydoun, Z. R., Clarke, M. W. H. & Stoneley, R. 1992. Petroleum in the Zagros Basin: a late Tertiary foreland basin overprinted onto the outer edge of a vast hydrocarbon-rich Paleozoic-Mesozoic passive-margin shelf. In Foreland Basins and Fold Belts (eds Macqueen, R. W. & Leckie, D. A.), pp. 309–39. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Memoir no. 55.Google Scholar
Blanc, E. J.-P., Allen, M. B., Inger, S. & Hassani, H. 2003. Structural styles in the Zagros simply folded zone, Iran. Journal of the Geological Society, London 160, 401–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bordenave, M. L. & Burwood, R. 1990. Source rock distribution and maturation in the Zagros orogenic belt: provenance of the Asmari and Bangestan reservoir oil accumulations. Organic Geochemistry 16, 369–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colman-Sadd, S. 1978. Fold development in Zagros simply folded belt, Southwest Iran. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin 62, 9841003.Google Scholar
DeCelles, P., Gehrels, G. E., Quade, J. & Ojha, T. P. 1998. Eocene-early Miocene foreland basin development and the history of Himalayan thrusting, western and central Nepal. Tectonics 17, 741–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeCelles, P. G. & Giles, K. 1996. Foreland basin systems. Basin Research 8, 105–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunnington, H. V. 1968. Salt-tectonic features of Northern Iraq. Special Papers of the Geological Society of America 88, 183227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elliott, G. F. 1957. Subterraniphyllum, a new Tertiary calcareous algae. Palaeontology 1, 73–5.Google Scholar
Emery, K. O. 1956. Sediments and water of Persian Gulf. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin 40, 2354–83.Google Scholar
Fakhari, M. D., Axen, G. J., Horton, B. K., Hassanzadeh, J. & Amini, A. 2008. Revised age of proximal deposits in the Zagros foreland basin and implications for Cenozoic evolution of the High Zagros. Tectonophysics 451, 170–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Falcon, N. L. 1974. Southern Iran: Zagros Mountains. In Mesozoic–Cenozoic Orogenic Belts (ed. Spencer, A. M.), pp. 199211. Geological Society of London, Special Publication no. 4.Google Scholar
Favre, G. 1974. The post Asmari Formations of southwest Iran. National Iranian Oil Company, Report 1220.Google Scholar
Foda, M. A., Khaiaf, F. I. & Al-Kadi, A. S. 1985. Estimation of dust fallout and rates in the northern Arabian Gulf. Sedimentology 32, 595603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fryberger, S. G., Al-Sari, A. M. & Clisham, T. J. 1983. Eolian dune, interdune sand sheet and siliciclastic sabkha sediments of an offshore prograding sand sea, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin 67, 280312.Google Scholar
Ghasemi-Nejad, E., Head, M. & Naderi, M. 2009. Palynology and petroleum potential of the Khazhdumi Formation (Cretaceous: Albian-Cenomanian) in the South Pars field, northern Persian Gulf. Marine and Petroleum Geology 26, 805–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hessami, K., Nilforoushan, F. & Talbot, C. J. 2006. Active deformation within the Zagros Mountains deduced from GPS measurements. Journal of the Geological Society, London 163, 143–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heydari, E. 2008. Tectonics versus eustatic control on supersequences of the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Tectonophysics 451, 5670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Homke, S., Verges, J., Garces, M., Emami, H. & Karpuz, R. 2004. Magnetostratigraphy of Miocene-Pliocene Zagros foreland deposits in the front of the Push-e Kush arc (Lurestan Province, Iran). Earth and Planetary Science Letters 225, 397410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Houbolt, J. J. H. C. 1957. Surface sediments of the Persian Gulf near the Qatar Peninsula. Published Ph.D. thesis. University of Utrecht. The Hague: Mouton and Co. 113 pp.Google Scholar
Jahani, S., Callot, J. P., Letouzey, J. & Lamotte, D. F. 2009. The eastern termination of the Zagros fold-thrust belt, Iran: structures, evolution and relationships between salt plugs, folding and faulting. Tectonics 28, TC6004, doi:10.1029/2008TC002418, 22 pp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
James, G. A. & Wynd, J. G. 1965. Stratigraphic nomenclature of Iranian Oil Consortium agreement area. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin 49, 2182–245.Google Scholar
Kashfi, M. 1984. Evidence for vertical movement in the southern part of the Zagros geosynclines, Iran. Journal of Petroleum Geology 7, 8796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kent, P. E. 1970. The salt plugs of the Persian Gulf region. Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society Transactions 64, 5688.Google Scholar
Khadivi, S., Mouthereau, F., Larrasoaña, J. C., Vergés, J., Lacombe, O., Khademi, E., Beamud, E., Melinte-Dobrinescu, M. & Suc, J.-P., 2010. Magnetochronology of synorogenic Miocene foreland sediments in the Fars arc of the Zagros Folded Belt (SW Iran). Basin Research 22, 918–32.Google Scholar
Koop, W. & Stoneley, R. 1982. Subsidence history of the Middle East Zagros basin, Permian to Recent. Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society of London 305, 149–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lacombe, O., Amrouch, K., Mouthereau, F. & Dissez, L. 2007. Calcite twinning constraints on late Neogene stress patterns and deformation mechanisms in the active Zagros collision belt. Geology 35, 263–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lacombe, O., Mouthereau, F., Kargar, S. & Meyer, B. 2006. Late Cenozoic and modern stress fields in the western Fars (Iran): implications for the tectonic and kinematic evolution of Central Zagros. Tectonics 25, TC1003, doi:10.1029/2005TC001831, 27 pp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McQuarrie, N. 2004. Crustal scale geometry of the Zagros fold-thrust belt, Iran. Journal of Structural Geology 26, 519–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Molinaro, M., Zeyen, H. & Laurencin, X. 2005. Lithospheric structure beneath the south-eastern Zagros mountains, Iran: recent slab break off? Terra Nova 17, 16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Motiei, H. 1993. Stratigraphy of Zagros. Tehran: Geological Survey of Iran, 536 pp.Google Scholar
Mouthereau, F., Lacombe, O. & Meyer, B. 2006. The Zagros folded belt (Fars, Iran): constraints from topography and critical wedge modeling. Geophysical Journal International 165, 336–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mouthereau, F., Tensi, J., Bellahsen, N., Lacombe, O., De Boisgrollier, T. & Kargar, S. 2007. Tertiary sequence of deformation in a thin-skinned/thick-skinned collision belt: the Zagros Folded Belt (Fars, Iran). Tectonics 26, TC5006, doi:10.1029/2007TC002098, 28 pp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mutti, E., Tinterri, R., Benevelli, G., Biase, D. & Cavanna, G. 2003. Deltaic, mixed and turbidite sedimentation of ancient foreland basins. Marine and Petroleum Geology 20, 733–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nadjafi, M., Mahboubi, A., Mossavi-Harami, R. & Mirzaee, R. 2004. Depositional history and sequence stratigraphy of outcropping Tertiary carbonates in the Jahrom and Asmari formations, Shiraz area (SW Iran). Journal of Petroleum Geology 27, 179–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nilforoushan, F., Masson, F., Vernant, P., Vigny, C., Martinod, J., Abbassi, M., Nankali, H., Hatzfeld, D., Bayer, R., Tavakoli, F., Ashtiani, A., Doerflinger, E., Daignieres, M., Collard, P. & Chery, J. 2003. GPS network monitors the Arabia-Eurasia collision deformation in Iran. Journal of Geodesy 77, 411–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Brien, C. A. E. 1957. Salt diapirism in South Persia. Geologie en Mijnbouw 19, 337–76.Google Scholar
Purser, B. H. & Seibold, E. 1973. The principal environmental factors influencing Holocene sedimentation and diagenesis in the Persian Gulf. In The Persian Gulf Holocene Carbonate Sedimentation and Diagenesis in a Shallow Epicontinental Sea (ed. Purser, B. H.), pp. 19. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
Razin, P., Taati, F. & van Buchem, F. S. P. 2010. Sequence stratigraphy of Cenomanian-Turonian carbonate platform margins (Sarvak formation) in the High Zagros, SW Iran: an outcrop reference model for the Arabian plate. In Mesozoic and Cenozoic Carbonate Systems of the Mediterranean and the Middle East: Stratigraphic and Diagenetic Reference Models (eds van Buchem, F. S. P., Gerdes, K. D. & Esteban, M.), pp. 187218. Geological Society of London, Special Publication no. 329.Google Scholar
Reading, H. G. 1986. Sedimentary Environments and Facies. Blackwell Scientific Publications, 615 pp.Google Scholar
Reilinger, R., McClusky, S., Vernant, F., Lawrence, S., Ergintav, S., Cakmak, R., Ozener, H., Kadirov, F., Guliev, I., Stepanyan, R., Nadariya, M., Hahubia, G., Mahmoud, S., Sakr, K., ArRajehi, A., Paradissis, D., Al-Aydrus, A., Prilepin, M., Guseva, T., Evren, E., Dmitrotsa, A., Filikov, S. V., Gomez, F., Al-Ghazzi, R. & Karam, G. 2006. GPS constraints on continental deformation in the Africa-Arabia-Eurasia continental collision zone and implications for the dynamics of plate interactions. Journal of Geophysical Research 111, B05411, doi:10.1029/2005JB004051, 26 pp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reineck, H. E. & Singh, I. B. 1980. Depositional Sedimentary Environments. New York: Springer-Verlag, 551 pp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Saura, E., Vergés, J., Homke, S., Blanc, E., Serra-Kiel, J., Bernaola, G., Casciello, E., Fernández, N., Romaire, I., Casini, G., Embry, J. C. Sharp, I. R. & Hunt, D. W. 2011. Basin architecture and growth folding of the NW Zagros early foreland basin during the late Cretaceous and early Tertiary. Journal of the Geological Society, London 168, 235–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Szabo, F. & Kheradpir, A. 1978. Permian and Triassic stratigraphy, Zagros basin, south-west Iran. Journal of Petroleum Geology 1, 5782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sengor, A. M. C. 1990. A new model for the late Palaeozoic-Mesozoic tectonic evolution of Iran and implications for Oman. In The Geology and Tectonics of the Oman Region (eds Robertson, A. H. F., Searle, M. P., & Ries, A. C.), pp. 797831. Geological Society of London, Special Publication no. 49.Google Scholar
Sepehr, M. & Cosgrove, J. W. 2004. Structural framework of the Zagros fold thrust belt, Iran. Marine and Petroleum Geology 21, 829–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sepehr, M. & Cosgrove, J. W. 2005. Role of the Kazerun Fault zone in the formation and deformation of the Zagros Fold-Thrust Belt, Iran. Tectonics 24, TC5005, doi:10.1029/2004TC001725, 13 pp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Setudehnia, A. 1972. International stratigraphic Lexicon of Iran: South-west Iran. International Union of Geological Sciences 3, 289376.Google Scholar
Setudehnia, A. 1978. The Mesozoic sequence in south-west Iran and adjacent areas. Journal of Petroleum Geology 1, 342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sherkati, S. & Letouzey, J. 2004. Variation of structural style and basin evolution in the central Zagros (Izeh zone and Dezful embayment), Iran. Marine and Petroleum Geology 21, 535–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sinclair, H. D., Coakley, B. J., Allen, P. A. & Watts, A. B. 1991. Simulation of foreland basin stratigraphy using a diffusion model of mountain belt uplift and erosion: an example from the central Alps, Switzerland. Tectonics 10, 599620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stöcklin, J. 1968. Structural history and tectonics of Iran: a review. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin 52, 1229–58.Google Scholar
Stöcklin, J. 1974. Possible ancient continental margins in Iran. In The Geology of Continental Margins (eds Burk, C. A. & Drake, C. L.), pp. 873–87. New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stöcklin, J. 1977. Structural correlation of the Alpine ranges between Iran and Central Asia. Mémoire Hors-Série de la Société Géologique de France 8, 333–53.Google Scholar
Talbot, C. J. & Alavi, M. 1996. The past of a future syntaxis across the Zagros. In Salt Tectonics (eds Alsop, G. I., Blundell, D. J. & Davison, I.), pp. 89109. Geological Society of London, Special Publication no. 100.Google Scholar
Tatar, M., Hatzfeld, D., Martinod, J., Walpersdolf, A., Ghafori-Ashtiany, M. & Chery, J. 2002. The present-day deformation of the central Zagros from GPS measurements. Geophysical Research Letters 29, 1013CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vaziri-moghaddam, H., Kimiagari, M. & Taheri, A. 2006. Depositional environment and sequence stratigraphy of the Oligo-Miocene Asmari formation in SW Iran. Facies 52, 4151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vernant, P. H., Nilforoushan, N., Hatzfeld, D., Abbassi, M. R., Vigny, C., Masson, F., Nankali, H., Martinod, J., Ashtiani, A., Bayer, R., Tavakoli, F. & Chéry, J. 2004. Present-day crustal deformation and plate kinematics in the Middle East constrained by GPS measurements in Iran and northern Oman. Geophysical Journal International 157, 381–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walpersdorf, A., Hatzfeld, D., Nankali, H., Tavakoli, F., Nilforoushan, F., Tatar, M., Vernant, P., Chéry, J. & Masson, F. 2006. Difference in the GPS deformation pattern of North and Central Zagros (Iran). Geophysical Journal International 167, 1077–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Neogene sediments and modern depositional environments of the Zagros foreland basin system
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Neogene sediments and modern depositional environments of the Zagros foreland basin system
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Neogene sediments and modern depositional environments of the Zagros foreland basin system
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *