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Paleoenvironmental evolution during the Messinian

Evoluzione paleoambientale durante il Messiniano



ERC Sectors

PE10_5 - Geology, tectonics, volcanology
PE10_10 - Mineralogy, petrology, igneous petrology, metamorphic petrology
PE10_11 - Geochemistry, cosmochemistry, crystal chemistry, isotope geochemistry, thermodynamics
PE10_12 - Sedimentology, soil science, palaeontology, earth evolution


During the Messinian, the ongoing isolation of the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, in combination with the effect of orbitally-controlled climatic changes, led to the widespread deposition of cyclical successions of marls, pelites and diatomites in the Mediterranean, since about 7 Ma. The gradual restriction of the Mediterranean culminated with the deposition of evaporitic rocks during the Messinian salinity crisis (5.97-5.33 Ma). Even if the overall chronostratigraphic framework of this event is now well-known, many aspects, such as for example the chemical and physical conditions of the water column and seafloor, as well as the impact of the Messinian crisis on the marine ecosystems, are still controversial.

The project is aimed to reconstruct the paleoenvironmental conditions that promoted the onset and the development of the Messinian salinity crisis, and the impact of this event on the marine ecosystems, throughout the sedimentological, cyclostratigraphic, petrographic, micropaleontological, geochemical and geomicrobiological study of sections from different sectors of the Mediterranean area (e.g., Spain, Piedmont, Sicily).

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Fig. 1 Benthic foraminifer found in the pre-evaporitic Messinian sediments of the Piedmont Basin


Fig.2 Selenite (A) and balatino gypsum (B). From the Banengo and Pollenzo Messinian sections (Piedmont), respectively

Main Collaborations

  • Prof. Jörn Peckmann, Dr. Daniel Birgel (Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hamburg, Germany)
  • Prof. Luis Gibert, Dr. Javier Garcia-Veigas (Department of Geochemistry, Petrology and Geological Prospecting, University of Barcelona, Spain)
  • Prof. Richard W. Jordan, Dr. Kenta Abe (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Yamagata University, Japan)
  • Dr. Giovanni Aloisi (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, France)


Fig. 3 Sedimentological and micropaleontological SEM-based characterization of the upper Miocene diatomaceous deposits of the Piedmont Basin (Pecetto di Valenza section, Alessandria). Modified from Pellegrino et al. (2020).

dolomite batteriologica

Fig. 4 Bacterial dolomite in the marls of the Govone section (Cuneo). From Sabino et al. (2021).



  •  Carnevale, G., Gennari, R., Lozar, F., Natalicchio, M., Pellegrino, L., Dela Pierre, F., 2019. Living in a deep dessicated Mediterranean Sea: An overview of the Italian fossil record of the Messinian salinity crisis. Bollettino della Società Paleontologica Italiana 58 (1), 109-140
  • Natalicchio, M., Dela Pierre, F., Birgel, D., Brumsack, H., Carnevale, G., Gennari, R., Gier, S., Lozar, F., Pellegrino, L., Sabino, M., Schnetger, B., Peckmann, J., 2019. Paleonvironmental change in a precession-paced succession across the onset of the Messinian salinity crisis: Insight from element geochemistry and molecular fossils. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 518, 45-61
  • Pellegrino, L., Dela Pierre, F., Jordan, R.W., Abe, K., Mikami, Y., Natalicchio, M., Gennari, R., Lozar, F., Carnevale, G., 2020. The upper Miocene diatomaceous sediments of the northernmost Mediterranean region: A lamina‐scale investigation of an overlooked palaeoceanographic archive. Sedimentology 67 (7), 3389-3421 (
  • Sabino, M., Schefuß, E., Natalicchio, M., Dela Pierre, F., Birgel, D., Bortels, D., Schnetger, B., Peckmann, J., 2020. Climatic and hydrologic variability in the northern Mediterranean across the onset of the Messinian salinity crisis. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 545, 109632
  • Sabino, M., Dela Pierre, F., Natalicchio, M., Birgel, D., Gier, S., Peckmann, J., 2021. The response of water column and sedimentary environments to the advent of the Messinian salinity crisis: in-sights from an onshore deep-water section (Govone, NW Italy). Geological Magazine

Projects related to the research

Sedimentological study of the upper Miocene laminated sediments of Piedmont, aimed at enhancing the regional geological heritage
- Research project in progress funded by the Cassa di Risparmio di Torino (Responsible: Prof. Francesco Dela Pierre)

The flooding of the Mediterranean at the end of the Messinian salinity crisis: reality or fiction?
- Research project in progress - XXXVI PhD Cycle in Earth Sciences (Responsible: Prof. Rocco Gennari)

Tag: Messinian, paleoenvironments, environmental crisis

Last update: 25/05/2021 19:25
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