Late Cretaceous through Cenozoic Paleoenvironmental History of the Bagua Basin, Peru: Paleoelevation Comparisons with the Central Andean Plateau

Federico Moreno, Carmala N. Garzione, Sarah W.M. George, Lauren Williams, Fabiana Richter, Alice Bandeian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Located in northern Peru, at the lowest segment of the Central Andes, the Bagua Basin contains a Campanian to Pleistocene sedimentary record that archives the local paleoenvironmental and tectonic history. We present new δ18O and δ13C signatures of pedogenic carbonate nodules from paleosols in the Campanian–Maastrichtian Fundo El Triunfo Formation and in the upper Eocene–middle Miocene Sambimera Formation to reconstruct the isotopic composition of paleo-meteoric water and the floristic biome. We compare these results to modern isotopic values from a newly obtained modern water transect to interpret the environmental evolution of this area and its relationship with the neighboring Eastern Cordillera. A ~2‰ δ18O depletion between the latest Cretaceous and the latest Eocene reflects a shift from a coastal to inland environment. A negative δ18O shift of ~3‰ from the middle Miocene to the present day reveals the establishment of the Eastern Cordillera as an orographic barrier for the moisture traveling westward, sometime after deposition of the top of the Sambimera Formation at ~13 Ma. A shift in the δ13C signature from ~−25‰ in the Campanian–Miocene deposits to ~−23‰ in modern–Holocene times suggests a change in biome from dominant C3 plants to a mixture of C3 and C4 plants. This environmental shift reflects both the late Miocene global C4 expansion and the transition to more arid conditions in the basin. The Campanian–middle Miocene environmental reconstruction of the Bagua Basin indicates a steady paleoelevation setting in the northernmost Central Andes during most of the Cenozoic and constrains the uplift of the Eastern Cordillera to the late Miocene–Pleistocene. This paleoelevation history contrasts with that of the Central Andean Plateau, which is characterized by two major episodes of surface uplift: early–middle Miocene and late Miocene–Pliocene. The contrasting modern topographic configuration of the Central Andean Plateau and the northernmost Central Andes gives rise to the question of what factors created such a dramatic difference in topographic evolution of the two regions that shared an overall common tectonic history. We discuss the possible factors responsible for this contrasting topographic configuration and suggest that the diachronous flat slab episodes are likely a major factor, resulting in greater shortening and crustal thickness and, ultimately, in earlier surface uplift episodes occurring in the Central Andean Plateau.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number242
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Bagua Basin
  • northern Central Andes
  • oxygen and carbon stable isotopes
  • paleoeleva-tion history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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