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Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111 136


Late MioceneQuaternary volcanism, tectonics and drainage

system evolution in the East Carpathians, Romania
Werner Fielitz a,*, Ioan Seghedi b

Geologisches Institut, Universitat Karlsruhe, Kaiserstr. 12, D-76131 Karlsruhe, Germany
Institute of Geodynamics bSabba S. StefanescuQ, 19-21, Jean-Louis Calderon Str., RO-70201 Bucharest 37, Romania

Received 28 November 2003; received in revised form 30 September 2004; accepted 19 October 2004
Available online 19 September 2005

Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) convergence created the fold and thrust belt of the Eastern Carpathians of Romania, which
subsequently experienced post-collisional crustal deformation combined with calc-alkaline and alkalic-basaltic volcanism in
late MioceneQuaternary time. This deformation led to the rise of the CalimaniGurghiuHarghita volcanic mountains and to
the subsidence of the NS-oriented intramontane Borsec/BilborGheorgheniCiuc and Brasov pull-apart basins, and the Eoriented monocline-related Fagaras basin. The regional drainage network is the composite of:
(1) Older E-, SE- and S-flowing rivers, which cross the Carpathians, radiate towards the foreland and were probably
established during the Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) collision event.
(2) A more recent drainage system related to the contemporaneous development of the volcanoes and intramontaneous
basins, which generally drains westward into the Transylvanian Basin since late Miocene time and has been capturing the
older river system.
The older river drainage system has also been modified by Late PlioceneQuaternary folding, thrusting and monoclinal
tilting along the Pericarpathian orogenic front and by reactivated transverse high angle basement faults, which cross the Eastern
Carpathian foreland.
D 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Neotectonics; Volcanism; River drainage; East Carpathians; Foreland

1. Introduction

* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: Werner.Fielitz@bio-geo.uni-karlsruhe.de
(W. Fielitz), seghedi@geodin.ro (I. Seghedi).
0040-1951/$ - see front matter D 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Active structures of evolving mountain chains are

commonly expressed in the geomorphology of the
fluvial drainage patterns. The geomorphology of the
landscape reflects recent upper crustal deformations


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

and displacements in the form of escarpments or block

tilting near faults or folds and by discontinuities along
planar or linear geomorphic markers (e.g. river terraces, erosional surfaces, river courses). In addition
active volcanism connected to active tectonic structures also produces new geomorphological elements.
The tectonic geomorphology strongly influences erosion, fluvial drainage pattern, drainage divides, flood
plain morphology and the channel types (e.g. Ouchi,
1985; Keller and Pinter, 1996; Mial, 1996; Schumm et
al., 2000; Burbank and Anderson, 2001), with climatic conditions controlling the intensity of the interplay between tectonic movements and geological
structures (Bull, 1991). In this study we use geological, geomorphological and geophysical data to interpret the post-collisional Late MioceneQuaternary
neotectonics and kinematics of some key areas of

the Eastern Carpathians of Romania. We also attempt

to illustrate the impact of the structural evolution on
the regional fluvial drainage system.

2. Geological setting
The Eastern Carpathians are part of the Alpine
Carpathian orogenic belt, which resulted from the
convergence and collision of several microplates
with the Eurasian plate during closure of the Tethys
Ocean (Sandulescu, 1984; Csontos, 1995; Stampfli et
al., 1998; Neugebauer et al., 2001). Several tectonic
units have been accreted in the Carpathian area (Fig.
1). The Outer Carpathians or Moldavides on the east
are part of the European margin (Sandulescu, 1988;
see Fig. 1 for location). Their convergence and the

Fig. 1. Geological sketch map of the Eastern and Southern Carpathians of Romania and surrounding areas with major river courses and the first
order drainage divide of the Carpathians (modified after Sandulescu et al., 1978; Sandulescu, 1984; Ma_enco et al., 2003a).

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

outline of the present day geometry occurred mainly

during the Miocene (2011 Ma) and climaxed in the
late Middle/early Late Miocene (1112 Ma, Sarmatian; Sandulescu, 1988; Ellouz et al., 1994; Zweigel et
al., 1998; Ma_enco et al., 2003a). However, to the
west the Inner Carpathians (= Dacides and Transylvanides of Sandulescu, 1988; see Fig. 1), which are part
of the TisiaDacia microplate, converged already in
mid-Cretaceous time (Aptian/Albian), then were covered partly by mid-Cretaceous (Aptian) to Palaeogene
sedimentary strata and finally were transported to their
present position during the Sarmatian accretion of the
Moldavides against Europe (Sandulescu, 1988; Royden, 1988; Csontos, 1995; Ma_enco and Bertotti,
2000). The geodynamic setting of the Sarmatian
deformation is inadequately understood, but it appears
that subduction with slab break-off and lithospheric
delamination during closure of the eastern prolongation of the Penninic Ocean played a major role
(Roman, 1970; Radulescu and Sandulescu, 1973;
Constantinescu and Enescu, 1984; Csontos, 1995;
Linzer, 1996; Grbacea and Frisch, 1998; Nemcok et
al., 1998; Mason et al., 1998; Seghedi et al., 1998;
Kovac et al., 2000; Sperner et al., 2001, 2002).
The Eastern Carpathian foldthrust belt consists of
a complex pile of nappes (Fig. 1; Sandulescu, 1984,
1988; Ellouz et al., 1994; Badescu, 1998; Ma_enco
and Bertotti, 2000). They are made up of Cretaceous
marine basinal sediments and of Paleogene to Neogene flysch and Neogene molasse deposits. The central parts are dominated by crystalline rocks with a
cover of Late PalaeozoicCretaceous mostly marine
sediments and Early Cretaceous flysch deposits. The
Moldavidian nappe pile has an estimated thickness of
810 km (Ellouz et al., 1994; Morley, 1996; Ma_enco
and Bertotti, 2000).
The Carpathian foreland is underlain by a Precambrian crust with a relatively undeformed Palaeozoic
Mesozoic autochthonous platform cover and by
deformed rocks of the TriassicJurassic North Dobrogea orogen (Fig. 1; Sandulescu, 1984; Visarion et al.,
1988; Tari et al., 1997; Seghedi, 1998; Ma_enco et al.,
2003a). The Moesian Platform to the south and the
Scythian Platform to the north are characterized by
distinct magnetic anomalies, which result from differences in the crystalline basement, and by lithologic
differences in the detritic and carbonaceous platform
cover (Tari et al., 1997; Seghedi, 1998 and references


therein). These blocks are separated by the Trotus

(TF) and PeceneagaCamena (PCF) faults. In the
Moesian Platform block the CapidavaOvidiu (COF)
and Intramoesian (IMF) faults separate basements of
different composition (Fig. 1). The deformed rocks of
the North Dobrogea orogen include Variscan basement and a PermianCretaceous sedimentary and volcanic cover (Seghedi, 1998).
Post-collisional (= post-Sarmatian) sediments overlie structures of the Carpathian orogen and its foreland
but are also deformed by younger structures. The most
important of these structures is the Focsani basin (Fig.
1; Ma_enco et al., 2003a; Tarapoanca et al., 2003). Late
Pliocene to Early Quaternary contractional deformation in the foreland reaches as far as the Pericarpathian
Front (Hippolyte and Sandulescu, 1996; Hippolyte et
al., 1996; Ma_enco and Bertotti, 2000; Fig. 1). Apatite
fission-track data show that strong uplift and exhumation occurred in the Eastern Carpathians during the
Pliocene (27 Ma; Sanders et al., 1999). The inner part
of the Carpathians, which is partially covered by sediments of the Late Miocene Transylvanian Basin (Fig.
1), was also affected by some Neogene to Quaternary
compressional deformation (Ciulavu et al., 2000).
However along the eastern and southeastern margin
the Transylvanian Basin is made up of the Late Miocene to Quaternary calc-alkaline volcanic Calimani
GurghiuHarghita (CGH) mountains (Szakacs and
Seghedi, 1995, 1996; Seghedi et al., 1998; Mason et
al., 1998), GheorgheniCiuc graben system (Vasilescu
et al., 1968; Bandrabur and Roman, 1972; Bandrabur
and Codarcea, 1974; Grbacea, 1997), Brasov basin
system and the Quaternary Fagaras depression (Patrulius et al., 1968; Ghenea et al., 1971; Marinescu et al.,
1981; Grbacea, 1997; for locations see Fig. 1). Latest
Pliocene to Quaternary alkalic-basaltic volcanism is
concentrated in the adjacent Persani mountains
(Seghedi and Szakacs, 1994; Downes et al., 1995;
Panaiotu et al., 2004; Fig. 1).
Ongoing tectonic activity in the Eastern Carpathians is also indicated by near-surface crustal
deformation, vertical crustal movements as revealed
by geodetic measurements (Popescu and Draguescu,
1986; Radulescu et al., 1998; Zugravescu et al.,
1998), by volcanism (Szakacs and Seghedi, 1995)
and seismic activity. The latter is mainly concentrated at intermediate depth (60 to 180 km) in the
upper mantle and is expressed by occasional large


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

magnitude earthquakes (M w V 7.4; Oncescu et al.,


3. Volcanism, graben structures and regional

drainage in the inner Eastern Carpathians
In the inner Eastern Carpathians the volcanic CalimaniGurghiuHarghita (CGH) mountains, the associated Bilbor/BorsecGheorgheniCiuc graben system
and the Brasov graben system (Fig. 1) are key areas for
understanding the evolution of the actual fluvial drainage system of the Eastern Carpathian bend area. We
will therefore first discuss the timing of structures for
this area and then proceed to the outer parts and the
foreland of the mountain chain.
3.1. CalimaniGurghiuHarghita Mountains and
Bilbor/BorsecGheorgheniCiuc basin system
The CGH mountains rise above the eastern Transylvanian Basin, which acquired its present shape
since the Middle Miocene (about 15 Ma) and is
filled with up to 4000 m acidic tuffs, shallow marine
and lacustrine sands, clays and marls (Ciulavu et al.,
2000). With the exception of their southern termination they are parallel to the structures of the Eastern

Carpathians (Fig. 1). To the east and southeast the

volcanics rest unconformably on several Carpathian
nappes. To the west and southwest they overlie Late
Miocene sediments of the Transylvanian Basin. The
CGH mountains are the result of an important calcalkaline volcanic activity (Radulescu et al., 1973;
Szakacs and Seghedi, 1995). The volcanic edifices,
which partially overlap, are mainly andesitic composite volcanoes, surrounded by their peripheral volcaniclastic aprons. Some of them attained caldera
stage, or have been complicated by summital or
peripheral domes or dome complexes (Szakacs and
Seghedi, 1995). Edifice failure and related debris
avalanche deposits characterize several composite
volcanoes (Szakacs and Seghedi, 2000). In contrast
to the older and more northerly located volcanic
areas of the CarpathianPannonian region, the
CGH volcanic centers form a narrow elongated
strip in which activity (height, width, volume and
complexity) and age decrease progressively towards
the southeast (Pecskay et al., 1995a,b; Szakacs and
Seghedi, 1995; Seghedi et al., 2004a,b, in print; Fig.
2). The oldest rocks in the NNW have ages of 10.5
Ma old (Calimani Mts.), whereas the youngest volcano to the SSE (Ciomadul volcano) has an age of
approximately 0.03 Ma (Juvigne et al., 1994; Moriya
et al., 1996).

Fig. 2. Late MioceneQuaternary CalimaniGurghiuHarghita volcanic mountains and sedimentary deposits of the Bilbor/BorsecGheorgheni
Ciuc basins (according to Szakacs and Seghedi, 1995, with modifications). KAr ages of the volcanic rocks after Pecskay et al. (1995b). The
practically identical ages of volcanic rocks from the intramontane basins (e.g. Ciuc basin) and from the volcanic range on the west demonstrate a
contemporaneous development of basins and volcanic centers.

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

Closely linked to the eastern margin of this volcanic chain is the GheorgheniCiuc basin system,
which also developed unconformably on top of the
Eastern Carpathian nappes (Fig. 2). The composite
basin consists of four separate graben structures,
which from N to S are the small Bilbor/Borsec
basin (Pion and Istocescu, 1965; Bandrabur et al.,
1990), the Gheorgheni, the upper Ciuc and the lower
Ciuc grabens (Sandulescu, 1984). The basin fill of
ca. 200 m in the Bilbor/Borsec basins, 1000 m in the
Gheorgheni Basin and 800 m in the Ciuc Basins, is
made up mainly of fluviallacustrine clastic deposits
and coal, but also includes important volcano-sedi-


mentary deposits derived from the nearby CGH

volcanic complexes (Pion and Istocescu, 1965; Vasilescu et al., 1968; Bandrabur and Roman, 1972;
Bandrabur and Codarcea, 1974). For the basal fluviallacustrine facies paleontological data suggest a
Pannonian age for the Bilbor/Borsec basins (Georgescu in Bandrabur et al., 1990) and a Pliocene to
Early Pleistocene age for the Gheorgheni and Ciuc
basins (Bandrabur and Roman, 1972; Bandrabur and
Codarcea, 1974). However, K/Ar dating of volcanic
deposits from the basin fill, sampled from boreholes,
yielded ages of 6.3 and 6.0 Ma (Latest Miocene) for
the upper Ciuc Basin, and 4.3 and 4.0 Ma (Early

Fig. 3. Evolution of Late Miocene (10.56.5 Ma) volcanic centers of the Calimani and northern Gurghiu volcanic mountains (according to
Szakacs and Seghedi, 1996, with modifications; for location see Fig. 2). Areas of active volcanic processes are represented by gray shadings for
each time interval and arrows show the assumed dispersion directions of the volcaniclastics. A) Early intrusions (EI), Rusca-Tihu (RTV) and
Jirca (J) volcano. B) Rusca-Tihu debris avalanche and Jirca volcano; thick cross indicates an area of tectonic uplift. C) Rusca-Tihu and FancelLapusna (FL) volcano. D) Calimani caldera (CC) volcano, Fancel-Lapusna volcaniclastic formation and Bacta (B) dome complex. Volcanic
edifices appear to have developed over faults and fracture zones (shown as thick black lines), which changed their orientation through time, but
evolved into a broad transtensional fault zone.


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

Fig. 4. Faults and fracture zones in the Mures valley between Topli_a and Rastoli_a at the boundary between the Calimani Mountains in the N
and the Gurghiu Mountains in the S (for location see Fig. 2). Geology according to Szakacs and Seghedi (1996). The data summarize
measurements from different outcrops and are also combined in stereonet diagrams. Two adjacent fault zones seem to exist between Lunca
Bradului and Stanceni: a western one with NNWSSE striking transtensional normal faults and an eastern one with NNESSW striking strikeslip faults, both postdating the Late Miocene (87 Ma) volcaniclastic deposits.

Pliocene) for the lower Ciuc Basin (Pecskay et al.,

1995b; Fig. 2). These ages are nearly identical to the
oldest volcanic rocks along the western edges of
these basins (Pecskay et al., 1995b; Fig. 2), suggest-

ing a contemporaneous origin of basins and volcanoes. Although poorly documented, this relationship
should hold for the central and northern parts of this
basin system as well; we thus infer an approximate

Fig. 5. Field views of Late Miocene to Quaternary structures in the Eastern Carpathian bend area. (A) The nearly horizontal plain in the
foreground is the surface of the late Early Miocene to Quaternary easternmost Brasov Basin (Targu Secuiesc (Bre_cu) Basin) near Covasna. In
the background are the Vrancea Mountains, which are made up of Paleogene Flysch nappes emplaced during the Sarmatian (Middle Miocene).
(B) W-dipping normal faults in volcaniclastic deposits (Fancel-Lapusna Formation) of the late Miocene Gurghiu volcanic complex and exposed
in the Mures valley east of Neagra. (C) High-angle faults in volcaniclastic deposits (Fancel-Lapusna Formation) of the Late Miocene Gurghiu
volcanic complex and exposed in the Mures valley west of Lunca Bradului. (D) Fault plane with shallow S-plunging striations in volcaniclastic
deposits (Rusca-Tihu Formation) of the late Miocene Calimani Volcanic complex and exposed in the Mures valley west of Stanceni. (E) Strikeslip faults in volcaniclastic deposits (Fancel-Lapusna Formation) of the Late Miocene Gurghiu Volcanic complex and exposed in the Mures
valley east of Neagra. (F) Late Middle Miocene (Late Sarmatian) limestones from the southern hinge of the ENEWSW trending Pericarpathian
front anticline west of Buzau. Late Pliocene to Earliest Pleistocene beds are also folded near the eastern termination of this anticline. (G) Early
Pleistocene deposits (Candesti Formation) tilted eastward towards the foreland along the Pericarpathian Front and uplifted about 730 m at the
Putna river northwest of Focsani. The Putna river is incised into gently eastward dipping Pleistocene fluvial terraces (in the foreground with
village). The river is diverted around the hill, whose crest forms a small-scale local divide in the regional river system.

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136



W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

age of 9 Ma for Bilbor/Borsec and 7.5 Ma for the

Gheorgheni basin generation (Fig. 2).
In the CGH mountains the volcanic centers are not
randomly distributed. They seem to be concentrated
along individual and/or intersections of faults,
although locations and orientations change with
time. In the Calimani and northern Gurghiu Mountains, where this evolution is very well constrained by
Late Miocene (10.56.5 Ma) KAr ages of volcanic
centers (Fig. 3; Pecskay et al., 1995b; Seghedi et al.,
2004a,b, in print), a NWSE striking fault localizes
the earliest subvolcanic bodies of the CGH mountains
between 10.5 and 9.5 Ma (Fig. 3A), while NESW
striking fractures localize the succeeding subaerial
volcanism between 9.5 and 8.0 Ma (Fig. 3A and B).
This volcanic phase overlaps and is progressively
replaced by eruptions from a more southerly located
NNWSSE oriented fracture system between 8.0 and
6.5 Ma (Fig. 3C and D). This system has propagated
further to the SSE, paralleling the GheorgheniCiuc
basins to the west and south between 6.5 and 0.03 Ma

(Fig. 2). Structural observations in the Mures valley of

the Calimani and northern Gurghiu volcanic mountains show that the fractures are related mainly to
normal and strike-slip faults (Fig. 4). Two adjacent
fault zones can be documented: a western NNW
striking one is characterized by transtensional normal
faults (Fig. 5B and C) and an eastern NNE striking
one consists of strike-slip faults (Fig. 5D and E). The
data indicating strike-slip displacements are however
ambiguous since both sinistral and dextral displacements have been observed. The probably contemporaneous fault zones postdate the Late Miocene (87 Ma)
volcaniclastic deposits. The NNW striking faults are a
prolongation of the newly developing volcanic zone,
which was active in the south between 8.0 and 6.5 Ma
(Fig. 3).
The Bilbor/Borsec, GheorgheniCiuc basin evolution has been interpreted in different ways within the
Middle Miocene to Pliocene contractional deformation of the Eastern Carpathian Orogen and it has
been considered separate from the presumably

Fig. 6. Fault and fracture pattern, which possibly has governed the evolution of Late MioceneQuaternary volcanism and basinal subsidence
along a transtensional corridor in the CGH-mountain region. The volcanic centers are concentrated along the western margin of this corridor.

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136


Fig. 7. Interpretative map of post-Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) structures of the Eastern Carpathian bend area. Late MioceneQuaternary
kinematics possibly also localized the centers of Late PlioceneQuaternary alkalic-basaltic volcanic activity in the Persani Mountains along the
westernmost normal fault of the Brasov basin system.

older CGH volcanic mountains (Grbacea and Frisch,

1998; Chalot-Prat and Grbacea, 2000; Ciulavu et al.,
2000). However, our data suggest: (1) a contemporaneous formation of basins and volcanic activity, (2) a
generally southward propagating fault system, (3) a
geometry of the faults and alignment of volcanic
centers indicating both strike-slip and normal faulting. From these observations we propose that the
CGH mountains and the Bilbor/BorsecGheor-

gheniCiuc basin system are part of a regional

NNWSSE striking sinistral transtensional fault
zone with left stepping stepovers and pull-apart
basins in the transfer areas (Figs. 6 and 7). Such a
fault zone could have generated the pathways to the
surface for the ascending magma, which was generated in the upper mantle and lower crust (Seghedi et
al., 1995; Mason et al., 1995, 1996; Seghedi et al.,


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

3.2. Brasov and Fagaras basin system

The Brasov basin system is situated adjacent to and
in prolongation south of the GheorgheniCiuc basin
system (Fig. 7). It is made up of three major subbasins arranged in echelon geometry. From east to
west the sub-basins are the Targu Secuiesc or Bre_cu
(Fig. 5A), Sfantu Gheorghe and BarsaBaraolt basins
(after Marinescu et al., 1981 and Sandulescu, 1984).
The basin fill rests unconformably on Eastern Carpathian nappes and is up to 750 m thick. Sediment
thickness decreases from the eastern to the western
sub-basins and consists of fluviallacustrine clastics,
lignite, carbonatesdiatomites and alluvial fan deposits, which are interbedded with volcaniclastics and
extrusive volcanic rocks (Patrulius et al., 1968; Peltz
et al., 1971; Marinescu et al., 1981; Grbacea, 1997;
Ciulavu et al., 2000). Older studies based on faunal
assemblages (Liteanu et al., 1962; Samson and Radulescu, 1963; Radulescu et al., 1965) and on magnetostratigraphy (Ghenea et al., 1979) indicated an age of
3.63.8 Ma (late Early Pliocene) for the oldest sediments of the basin system. More recent studies suggest an onset of subsidence in the Late Miocene (8.5
Ma; Ciulavu et al., 2000). This implies contemporaneous onset of subsidence in the Brasov and GheorgheniCiuc basin systems induced by a clock-wise
rotation of the Transylvanian block (Fig. 7). The
transfer displacements probably occurred from the
North-Transylvanian respectively Bogdan-Voda/Dragos-Voda Fault system of the northern Transylvanian
basin to the largely concealed South-Transylvanian
fault zone (Ciulavu et al., 2000; Fig. 1). This scenario
would be in agreement with clock-wise rotations of
the Transylvanian area derived from paleomagnetic
data for the Paleogene to Late Sarmatian time interval
(Panaiotu, 1998). Data from Pliocene rocks, however,
show no significant rotations; this implies that the
total amount of displacement is probably small
(Panaiotu, 1998). The existence of such a fault zone
would explain the contemporaneous extension in the
hinterland and compressional deformation in the foreland discussed below.
In the Persani mountains west of the Brasov basin
system an alkalic-basaltic volcanic center formed in the
Latest Pliocene to Quaternary (1.50.5 Ma; Seghedi
and Szakacs, 1994; Downes et al., 1995; Fig. 7). The
alkalic-basaltic volcanism was contemporaneous with

calc-alkaline and shoshonitic volcanism in the South

Harghita Mountains (e.g. Seghedi et al., 2004a). It seals
a normal fault with the same orientation as the main
Brasov basin faults (Popescu et al., 1976; Ciulavu et al.,
2000) and with volcanic centers arranged parallel to
this fault, which probably represents the westernmost
fault strand of the Brasov basin system.
The Brasov basin system has been interpreted as a
pull apart structure in context with the Middle Miocene to Pliocene contractional deformation of the
Eastern Carpathian Orogen (Grbacea and Frisch,
1998; Chalot-Prat and Grbacea, 2000; Ciulavu et
al., 2000; Huismans and Bertotti, 2002). Deformation
has been active until recently, since Pleistocene deposits show a vertical offset locally by about 500 m
(Sandulescu, 1984). From their geometry we propose
a set of ben echelonQ sub-basins related to the initial
stags of an ENE striking and westward propagating
sinistral fault zone (Fig. 7), strands of which have
been described in several places in the basin (Ciulavu
et al., 2000).
The Quaternary Fagaras depression is situated
along the southern margin of the Transylvanian
Basin directly west of the Brasov basin system and
the Persani Mountains (Fig. 7). It is filled with
approximately 100150 m of Pleistocene alluvial fan
deposits derived from the confining South Carpathians. Several Pleistocene and Holocene river terraces fringe the recent alluvial plains (Patrulius et al.,
1968; Codarcea and Stancu, 1968; Mihil et al., 1974;
Grbacea, 1997). The sediments unconformably overlie a broadly folded anticline that involves late Middle
Miocene rocks of the Transylvanian Basin (Grbacea,
1997). With the Olt river running parallel to the northern margin of the basin, the overall geometry suggests
that the southern border is an active N-dipping monoclinal structure (Fig. 7).
3.3. Inner Carpathian fluvial drainage system
The East Carpathians and the CGH volcanic chain
reach elevations of around 1800 m, while the Southern Carpathians are up to about 2500 m high. The flat
surfaces of the GheorgheniCiuc basins are at an
elevation of about 700 m, those of the Brasov basins
(Fig. 5a) and the Fagaras depression are at about 500
600 m. The hilly surface of the Transylvanian Basin
lies between 500 and 700 m.

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

Fig. 8. Inner Carpathian river drainage system with the location of the Buzau and Prahova valley as shown in Fig. 9. The capture of the foreland controlled Middle Miocene drainage
by the newly established Late Miocene to Early Quaternary intramontane drainage basins is suggested by the geometry of the upper Olt river and hook-shaped tributary source areas
along the margins of the intramontane basins (see also simplified inset).


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

Fig. 9. Topography across the main drainage divide of the Carpathians in the vicinity of the Buzau (A) and Prahova (B) valleys (for location see
Fig. 8). The Middle Miocene Buzau and Prahova drainage (arrows 2) is being captured by the newly established Late MioceneQuaternary
intramontane drainage represented by the Raul Negru and Timis drainage (arrows 3). The areas below 600 m in A and below 800 m in B are part
of the Brasov basin system. The BarbatulHomos tributaries of the Buzau river represent probably the relics of the Middle Miocene Buzau
Valley and the hook of the present Buzau river source area between Intorsura Buzaului and Vama is a former tributary of it. The N-directed
drainage of the source area tributaries suggests an even older drainage (arrow 1), for which however no additional proves exists up to now. The
older Prahova valley forms a hanging valley above the younger and steeper Timis valley. The tributaries of the Timis river are actively capturing
the tributaries of the Prahova river east and west of Predeal. Topographic profiles parallel to the river courses of the Prahova and Buzau valleys
(C) show the capture of the Middle Miocene drainage by the topographically deeper intramontane drainage in the Late MioceneQuaternary
(arrows indicate the actual divide).

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

The inner Carpathian fluvial system converges

onto the Transylvanian basin and drains parts of the
Eastern and Southern Carpathians to the west respectively southwest into the Tisza river of the Pannonian
Basin, a major northern tributary of the Danube (Figs.
1 and 8). It is controlled by three main rivers, the
Somes in the north, the Mures in the center and the
Olt in the south. The Olt river is the only river of the
Transylvanian Basin crossing the Carpathians in a
steep gorge and discharging directly into the Danube
(Fig. 1). Its complex geomorphic evolution probably
involved movements on the active Intramoesian Fault,
but is not the focus of this study.
The eastern and southern border of this inner Carpathian fluvial system is the main Carpathian drainage
divide (Fig. 8). The divide is strongly influenced by
the inner Carpathian basins as both the drainage and
basins cut across the Carpathian nappes and are parallel to each other. West of the divide the basins focus
the course of two major rivers, which contour also the
volcanic CGH mountains. The Mures river in the
north drains the Gheorgheni basin towards the north
and crosses the CGH volcanic chain between two
major volcanic structures (Calimani and northern Gurghiu) before it enters the Transylvanian basin. The Olt
river in the south parallels the volcanic chain and
drains both Ciuc basins towards the south, cuts across
the youngest volcanic structures between the Pilisca
and Ciomadul volcanoes, and after discharging into
the Brasov basin system it follows the central and
western sub-basins. The eastern sub-basin is being
drained by a major tributary. The Olt river discharges
after a final bend around the Persani mountains into
the Fagaras depression and leaves the Transylvanian
Basin by cutting across the Southern Carpathians
(Fig. 8).
The rivers east and south of the divide flow radially
across the Carpathians into the foreland but their
courses are commonly hook-shaped in the upper drainage areas along the divide (e.g. Trotus, Putna, Buzau,
Prahova and Dambovi_a rivers; Fig. 8, see also simplified inset). The Buzau and Prahova valleys near the
main Carpathian drainage divide show that this geometry results from the fact that their upper drainage
area is being captured by the intramontane drainage
represented by the Raul Negru river plus tributaries
and the Timis river plus tributaries (Fig. 9A and B).
The BarbatulHomos tributaries of the Buzau river


probably are relicts of the former Buzau valley and the

hook of the present Buzau river source area between
Intorsura Buzaului and Vama is a former tributary
(Fig. 9A). The Prahova valley forms a hanging valley
above the younger and steeper Timis valley and the
tributaries of the Timis river are actively capturing
tributaries of the Prahova river east and west of Predeal (Fig. 9B). Topographic profiles along these two
valleys suggest the capture of the older drainage by
the new deeper and steeper intramontane drainage of
the tectonically active basins by headward erosion
(Fig. 9C). Indications of an even earlier river capture
could possibly be deduced from the observation that
the source area drainage system of the Buzau river is
oriented northward before it forms the hook near
Intorsura Buzaului (Fig. 9A). Without additional
proof, it is however actually not possible to decide
if this early capture is real or if it is only a local
The composition of downstream river sediments on
both sides of the drainage divide and around the CGH
mountains should show the changing lithology in the
source areas of the rivers and could corroborate the
described river diversions and captures. Although
some local observations of the lithologic and mineralogic composition of fluvial terrace deposits exist
(e.g. Ghenea et al., 1971), no systematic study on
this subject has so far been done at our knowledge.

4. Structures and regional drainage in the outer

Eastern Carpathians and the foreland
4.1. Neogene to Quaternary structural evolution
The Eastern Carpathians form a N-trending fold
thrust belt, which propagated eastward mainly during
the Miocene (2011 Ma), with a climax of deformation in late Middle/early Late Miocene (1112 Ma,
Sarmatian, Figs. 1 and 10; Sandulescu, 1984, 1988;
Ellouz et al., 1994; Zweigel et al., 1998; Ma_enco et
al., 2003a).
Recent 3-D-crustal tomography studies revealed an
upper crustal high-velocity zone in the northern Vrancea zone. This zone was interpreted by the first author
as a Late Pliocene to Pleistocene E-striking and Sdirected out-of-sequence thrust of the crystalline basement below the approximately 810 km deep decolle-


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

Fig. 10. Late Pliocene to Pleistocene structures of the Eastern Carpathian bend area and its foreland. The basement structures are based on the
interpretation of crustal 3-D-tomography data by Landes et al. (2004). The foldthrust structures and major active folds in the foreland area
(after Ma_enco et al., 2003a) die out along the Intramoesian Fault area. Folding and thrusting are replaced by frontal monoclinal tilting along the
western edge of the Focsani basin until the Trotus Fault.

ment of the flysch nappes (Landes et al., 2004; Fig.

10). This EW trending zone of high velocities and its
extrapolated western continuation have no obvious
correlative in the surface geology. However, from the
Vrancea tectonic window in the east to the Getic
nappes in the Southern Carpathians in the west, a
structural culmination of the Moldavidian and outer
Dacide nappes can be observed in geologic cross sections (e.g. Stefanescu and Working Group, 1988;
Ma_enco and Bertotti, 2000). Furthermore, along its
northern margin a distinct structural depression coincides with the Brasov basin system and the Fagaras
depression (Figs. 7 and 10). This possibly suggests
refolding and uplift of nappes along the axis of a
hangingwall anticline and the development of a hangingwall syncline along the leading edge of the thrust

ramp. The shortening was successively transferred to

the surface, where it created the E- to ENE-striking
foldthrust structures in the southernmost corner of the
East Carpathians (Hippolyte and Sandulescu, 1996;
Hippolyte et al., 1996; Ma_enco and Bertotti, 2000;
Ma_enco et al., 2003a; Cloetingh et al., 2003; Figs. 5F
and 10). The front of this Late Pliocene to Early
Quaternary contractional deformation is now located
in the foreland and represented by the Pericarpathian
Front. However, minor eastward directed shortening
persisted and created the large monocline along the
western margin of the Focsani basin (Figs. 5G and 10).
Apatite fission-track data show that strong uplift and
exhumation of the area took place between the Late
Miocene and the Late Pliocene (27 Ma; Sanders et al.,
1999), which could have been caused by the out-of-

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

Fig. 11. Drainage of the Eastern Carpathians and Carpathian foreland, where Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) rivers were modified due to PlioceneQuaternary deformation along the
Pericarpathian Front. In the Carpathian foreland new local drainage divides were established as well (see text).


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

Fig. 12. Details of Fig. 11 from the frontal parts of the east Carpathian orogen and the southern foreland areas for A) Punta river, B) Buzau, C)
Ialomi_a and Dambovi_a rivers. Broken lines are local drainage divides.

sequence thrusting of the basement rocks. The exhumation is also evident in numerous levels of uplifted
fluvial terraces (Fig. 5G), the highest of which are
reported at 250 m above the actual thalweg of the
Putna river (Necea et al., 2005).
In the foreland basin and in the Focsani basin the
platform is covered by thick mostly fluviatile and
lacustrine sediments thinning out to the east and to
the south (Ma_enco et al., 2003a). In the Focsani
basin the sediments deposited since 12.5 Ma are locally
more than 8000 m thick. Maximum subsidence
occurred between 12.5 and 11 Ma (latest Middle Miocene/ early Late Miocene), while in the foreland south
and southwest of the Eastern Carpathian bend area
these sediments are at most only 46 km thick
(Ma_enco et al., 2003a, Tarapoanca et al., 2003).
Ongoing active tectonic deformation is recognized
as vertical crustal movements through geodetic measurements (Popescu and Draguescu, 1986; Zugravescu
and Polonic, 1997; Radulescu et al., 1998; Zugravescu
et al., 1998). Actual crustal seismicity in the upper 40
km scatters widely and is characterized by moderate
magnitude (M w V 5.6) earthquakes. Where the localization of the hypocenters is precise enough, it can be
related to crustal structures (Enescu et al., 1996;

Zugravescu and Polonic, 1997; Oncescu et al.,

1998). Some of the major faults of the foreland areas
have also been reactivated. Along the IMF many low
magnitude earthquakes have been recorded (Radulescu et al., 1976; Cornea and Polonic, 1979; Zugravescu and Polonic, 1997) and recent field studies
show that the Trotus/Peceneaga-Fault system is a
particularly active structure with a pronounced tectonic geomorphology and local offsets of 200 m,
which were achieved during the Quaternary (Ma_enco
enco et al., 2003b; Tarapoanca et al., 2003).
4.2. Outer Carpathian fluvial drainage system
The East Carpathians include mountain ranges with
elevations of up to around 1800 m and the Southern
Carpathians of up to 2500 m. The Carpathian foreland
is at elevations between 200 m (East Carpathians) and
300500 m (South Carpathians), dropping to b50 m
near the Siret and Danube rivers in the foreland.
The western and northern margin of the outer
Carpathian fluvial drainage system is the main Carpathian drainage divide (Fig. 11), from where rivers
diverge radially across the Carpathians into the foreland and then drain into the Danube river, which is the

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136


Fig. 13. River channel characteristics (meandering, braided reaches) of the rivers in the Eastern Carpathian foreland. PlioceneQuaternary
tectonic activities along the Pericarpathian Front and in the foreland have established local drainage divides and control the character of the river

first order river of the foreland flowing into the Black

Sea (Figs. 1 and 11). The main rivers draining the
investigated area are from northeast to southwest the
Trotus, Putna, Buzau, Ialomi_a, Dambovi_a and Arges
rivers (Fig. 11). These rivers cross the structures of the
Carpathian orogen at high angles. A closer look
reveals many changes and anomalies in the geometry
of the river drainage, the location of local drainage
divides (Fig. 11) and the nature of the river channel
characteristics (Fig. 13).
The northernmost drainage system, represented by
the Trotus, and more northerly drainages west of the
Siret river differ in geometry from the more southerly
drainages (Fig. 11). The Trotus runs NWSE and thus
oblique to its NNW-trending northern tributaries,
which run subparallel to the strike of the Carpathian
structures. The boundary of the Putna drainage to the
south corresponds approximately to the Trotus fault,

suggesting ongoing activity along the fault segment

west of the Siret river (Fig. 10).
The drainage between the Putna and the Buzau
rivers west of the Siret river is oriented WNWESE
and thus nearly perpendicular to the strike of Carpathian structures up to a line in the foreland that is
approximately NNE oriented and runs from the town
of Focsani to the south (Fig. 11). Two major local
divides can be distinguished in this sector (Fig. 12A).
The western divide runs approximately along the
Pericarpathian thrust front of the Carpathian orogen,
which delimits a steep eastward dipping monocline in
uppermost Sarmatian to Late Pliocene sedimentary
rocks. This local divide could be caused by minor
Late Miocene to Late Pliocene reactivation of the
Sarmatian thrust front or represent a Late Pliocene
to Quaternary erosional escarpment along the western
edge of the Focsani foreland basin due to the con-


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

Fig. 14. River channel characteristics along the Putna and Susi_a valleys north of Focsani. Here the transition between braided and meandering
reaches is related to an abrupt change in the orientation and gradient of the channels. The approximately NS trending discontinuity coincides
roughly with the frontal monocline of the Eastern Carpathians but might also be an active fault.

trasting lithology between the underlying Subcarpathian nappe and the steeply dipping uppermost
Sarmatian to Pliocene cover rocks. The eastern divide
runs along an escarpment up to 730 m high made of
the frontal erosional scarp slope of uplifted Early
Pleistocene conglomerate beds (Candesti formation),
which rest unconformably on Late Pliocene rocks and
form a moderately eastward dipping monocline (Figs.
5G and 12A). This local divide coincides also with
small local river diversions and must be of Middle
Pleistocene age, because Pleistocene to Holocene
fluvial terraces along the rivers are unconformable
to the Early Pleistocene beds and only slightly
uplifted and inclined toward the east (Necea et al.,
2005). West of the western local divide the upper
reaches of the Putna drainage show a concentric network (Fig. 12A) focussed on the Vrancea tectonic
window (Fig. 10).
From south of Focsani towards the east all rivers
south of the Putna river turn northeastward before
they drain into the Siret river (Fig. 11). The turning
point coincides with a change from predominantly
braided river channels in the west to predominantly
and often extremely meandering river channels in the
east (Figs. 13 and 14). The reason for this is probably

a lower river gradient and finer grained bedload in the

east. The abrupt change between channel types is
possibly related to the eastern edge of the Carpathian
foreland monocline (Fig. 10), a normal fault related to
the PeceneagaCamena normal fault system (Ma_enco
et al., 2003b; Fig. 10) or of both.
In the foreland area between the Siret and Prut
rivers east of the sectors described so far a completely different drainage system is observed, where
all the rivers have symmetric tributaries and run
nearly parallel well organized more or less in a southerly direction with a major NNE-trending local divide
between the Barlad area and the Prut river (Fig. 11).
This area is dominated by the active Quaternary
NNWSSE oriented PeceneagaCamena normal
fault system (Fig. 10) with its N-striking subsidiary
normal faults (Ma_enco et al., 2003b and Ma_enco,
personal communication). The highly asymmetric
Siret river drainage with the tributaries coming nearly
exclusively from the Carpathians in the west is
strongly focused by the main PeceneagaCamena
fault. The Siret river itself follows this fault very
closely along a steep escarpment.
The sector between the Buzau and Ialomi_a rivers is
characterized by SE- to SSE-directed drainage in the

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

western upper reaches, which are perpendicular to the

strike of the Carpathian structures (Fig. 11). In the
foreland the rivers turn eastward and later northeastward until they flow into the Danube or the Siret river.
Local divides are Late Pliocene to Pleistocene fold
thrust structures west of Buzau and in the upper reaches
of the Prahova and Ialomi_a rivers (Figs. 11 and 12B).
These are anticlinal fold crests that connect especially
the Buzau river system with tributaries subsequent and
consequent to the dip of the fold hinge strata (Figs. 5F
and 12B). The Buzau river itself is diverted and flows
around the major folds. It has braided channels southeast of the town of Buzau (B in Fig. 13), which is still

Fig. 15. Schematic section across the Eastern Carpathian bend area
illustrating the relationship between emplacement and uplift of
Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) nappes, Late MioceneQuaternary
volcanism, intramontane sinistral transtensional basin development,
Late PlioceneQuaternary contractional deformation and monoclinal
tilting near the Pericarpathian front, Quaternary faulting in the foreland, and contemporaneous evolution of the drainage system.


part of the monocline area near the transition to the

foldthrust area. Folds are not morphologically
expressed southwest and adjacent to the Buzau area,
but marked braided river channels characterize this
area pointing to increased river gradients.
The sector between the Buzau and the Ialomi_a rivers
south and east of the town of Buzau (B) is a region
nearly devoid of rivers and tributaries. The major rivers
on its margins show strongly meandering channels
(Figs. 11 and 13). This points to an area without important subsidence, uplift or tilting. It corresponds to the
northwestward plunging Central and South Dobrogea
areas delimited by the PeceneagaCamena and the
Intramoesian Faults, which crop out near the Black
Sea and disappear underneath the thick sediments of
the Carpathian foredeep (Fig. 10). To the east the Buzau
and Ialomi_a rivers as well as the Danube itself are
flowing northward contouring this mostly 100 to 200
m high Dobrogea outcrop area until the Danube north
of Braila turns again east to enter its delta toward the
Black Sea (Figs. 10 and 11). This topographic high area
is part of the Carpathian forebulge (Hippolyte et al.,
1996), possibly accompanied by Neogene or younger
steep N-trending normal or strike-slip faults (Bandrabur et al., 1968; Tarapoanca et al., 2003).
The Arges river forms the southwesternmost drainage system, which extends until the Dambovi_a and
upper Ialomi_a rivers. It is characterized by strong Sdirected drainages between the main Carpathian divide
and Pitesti (Fig. 11) and shows some similarities with
the adjacent drainage system of the Fagaras basin to the
north (Fig. 8). From south of Pitesti near the Pericarpathian front the Arges river runs to the southeast,
approaches closely the Dambovi_a river and finally
flows into the Danube. Local drainage divides in this
part of the Carpathian foreland between the Dambovi_a
and Ialomi_a rivers are characteristically oriented NW
SE and in their lower reaches near the Danube delimit a
separate local drainage system (Figs. 11 and 12C). This
area coincides with the location of the major Intramoesian fault system in the foreland, which is known for its
recent seismicity to be an active structure (Radulescu et
al., 1976; Cornea and Polonic, 1979; Zugravescu and
Polonic, 1997). The strong asymmetry and orientation
of the tributaries east of Bucharest indicate a southwestward tilting, thus indicating subsidence of the
southwestern crustal block along the Intramoesian
Fault (IMF). The local divide in the upper reaches of


W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

the Dambovi_a and Ialomi_a rivers could also be related

to the IMF, since the fault location is not very well
constrained in this area (Fig. 12C). The Arges tributaries east of Pitesti would indicate the same subsidence
of the southwestern crustal block as seen in the area
nearer to the Danube (Fig. 11).

5. Evolution of the fluvial drainage system in the

Eastern Carpathians and their foreland
In the last 12 Ma, i.e. from the latest Middle
Miocene through the Quaternary, the Eastern Carpathian bend area experienced tectonic deformation
and volcanism. Recent widely scattering crustal seismicity with moderate magnitudes of M w V 5.6 in the
upper 40 km underline this pattern of deformation
(Oncescu et al., 1998) that has shaped a remarkable
tectonically influenced drainage system. By fixing the
onset and evolution of specific geologic structures, it
is possible to approximately date the drainage system.
The oldest recognized drainage system of the study
area consists of E-, SE- and S-directed rivers that
originated along the main Carpathian divide and
crossed the Carpathians in a radiating pattern into the
foreland. It is oriented more or less perpendicular to the
strike of the Carpathian foldthrust structures (Figs. 11
and 15). Symmetrical to this drainage system, the W- to
WSW-directed drainage of the Transylvanian Basin
(Fig. 8) originated probably contemporaneously
along the same divide. The present topography and
basinal geometries of the Carpathians were established
during emplacement of the nappes in Early to Middle
Miocene time (2011 Ma), specifically during the climax of deformation in latest Middle to early Late
Miocene time (i.e. 1112 Ma or Sarmatian; Sandulescu, 1988; Ellouz et al., 1994; Zweigel et al., 1998;
Ma_enco et al., 2003a). This is also the earliest age for
the initiation of the older drainage system, the most
recent age of which can be deduced from the oldest
geologic structures modifying this drainage. This most
recent age is the initiation of the CGH volcanic chain
and the Bilbor/BorsecGheorgheniCiuc and Brasov
basin systems, dated to 10.59.5 Ma (= inception of
volcanism in the Calimani mountains), 9 Ma (probable
beginning of subsidence in Bilbor/Borsec basin), 7.5
Ma (= probable beginning of subsidence in the Gheorgheni basin), 6.2 Ma (= beginning of subsidence in the

upper Ciuc basin) and 8.5 Ma ( = beginning of subsidence in the Brasov basin; Ciulavu et al., 2000). An
age of 8 Ma is probably the most realistic date, since at
this time a topographically effective fluvial corridor
should have been fully established by the initial subsidence of the GheorgheniCiucBrasov basins.
Before the construction of the volcanic mountains
and the inner Carpathian basins the main drainage
divide probably followed the main nappe structures
and should therefore be situated to the west of todays
divide (Fig. 15). Major local divides like the divide
across the Brasov basin near Brasov to Miercurea Ciuc
and the divide between the Brasov basins and the
Fagaras depression (Fig. 8), today interrupted by the
intramontane basins, could be relicts of this divide. In
the north the old divide could be close to the actual one
between Miercurea Ciuc and Topli_a, since it parallels
Carpathian structures in this area and is in comparable
structural position to that proposed for the Brasov area.
The drainage west of the palaeo-divide is still present
and would be located in the Transylvanian Basin system west of the CGH mountains (i.e. Somes and Mures
drainages; Figs. 1, 8 and 15). The 118 Ma old river
system drained into and possibly terminated to west in
the Transylvanian Basin in big lakes or shallow marginal seas and to the east and south in the subsiding
foreland and Focsani basins, where big lakes dominated during the periods of humide climatic conditions
(Jipa, 1997). The drainage to and the connection of the
Danube with the Black Sea were probably not established until the late Quaternary (Panin et al., 1999).
A more active younger river system that evolved
from the older drainage system has been influenced by
the drainage in and around the intramontane basins
(GheorgheniCiuc and Brasov basin system; Figs. 8
and 15). Because the CGH volcanic mountains and the
GheorgheniCiuc basin system are here considered as
part of the same sinistral transtensional fault zone
propagating from NNW to SSE the volcanic mountains
influenced the drainage as well (Fig. 7). The new river
system contours the volcanic chain, captures part of the
older 108 Ma river system (Fig. 9) and thus has been
active since about 8 Ma, when the topographically
effective GheorgheniCiucBrasov basin corridor
was established. As soon as the rivers enter the Transylvanian Basin they have a generally W- to WSWtrend, probably reflecting the trend of the older river

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136


Fagaras basin with its parallel south to north running

tributaries of the Olt river has been interpreted as a
northward accretion of alluvial fans that originate in
the uplifted mountains to the south and displaced the
Olt river progressively northward (Grbacea, 1997).
Because of the extremely regular geometry of the
tributaries we suggest alternatively a north-dipping
monocline caused by Quaternary uplift of the South
Carpathians in this area (Fig. 7). The ordered arrangement of the tributaries of the Arges river immediately
south of the same mountains support this kind of
structure (Fig. 11). The gap between this western
drainage system and the eastern Vrancea drainage
system with no conspicuous river drainages could be
due to an axial depression of the basement uplift (Fig.
10) or by an actively subsiding Brasov basin counteracting the uplift. On a larger scale the zone between the
Vrancea area and the Fagaras basin can be described as
a broad more or less EW trending syncline, which
focuses the drainage and could be the expression of a

The older 108 Ma river drainage system was also

modified by continuing Late PlioceneQuaternary
deformation in the Eastern Carpathian bend area
(Figs. 11 and 15). This deformation is concentrated
in two zones. The first area straddles an ENEWSW
oriented basement uplift related to a possible S-directed out-of-sequence thrust between the Vrancea tectonic window in the east and the easternmost South
Carpathians in the west (Fig. 10). In the Vrancea area a
more or less concentric drainage pattern in the upper
reaches of the Putna river is centered on the Vrancea
tectonic window at the eastern termination of the
uplift. It appears to be a confined area of increased
uplift along the NS striking Moldavidian nappes and
exposes the deepest nappes of this zone of the Eastern
Carpathians. In the South Carpathian sector of this
zone from the Olt river to the east the drainage system
of the Fagaras basin and the upper reaches of the Arges
river show geometries related to an E-trending uplift
(Figs. 8 and 11). The asymmetric drainage of the

Table 1
Correlation between tectonic deformation, intramontane basin generation, volcanic activity and river drainage evolution in the Eastern
Carpathian bend area during the Middle Miocene to Quaternary

TR = Trotus, IM = Intramoesian, PC = PecenagaCamena.

fluvial terraces

alkalic-basaltic Persani

diversion (frontal Carpathians, W-Focsani

basin near crustal faults in foreland)

formation older drainage (Carpathians,

foreland, Transylvanian basin)


diversion (CGH volcanic area, Intramontaneous basins)

+ capture upper reaches older drainage

River adaptations




folding, thrusting + uplift







lower Ciuc
upper Ciuc





active TR, IM, PC faults





subsidence Focsani + foreland basins with faulting


(apatite fission track + geodetic data)


uplift W-flanc Focsani basin

East/South Carpathians
(Bend area)
folding, thrusting + uplift
(frontal bend area)



W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

hangingwall syncline in the back of the basement

ramp. Since Quaternary sediments fill the Fagaras
basin, this structure is probably still active.
A second zone of significant Late Pliocene to
Quaternary river drainage modification is located
along the Pericarpathian front (Figs. 11 and 15).
Here, folding and thrust faulting in the southeastern
corner of the Carpathians diverted the rivers and
established new local divides along anticlinal crests
(Fig. 12B). Local drainages with subsequent and consequent tributaries illustrate the recent adaptation of
the river system to this deformation. Further north the
frontal monocline of the Carpathians has similarly
created new local divides, small river diversions and
braided channel characteristics (Figs. 12A and 13).
Ongoing deformation in the whole Eastern Carpathian
bend area affecting the whole river system is documented by the numerous uplifted and slightly tilted
fluvial terraces, which are a focus of ongoing studies
(Fig. 5G; Necea et al., 2005).
The last localized areas, which show Quaternary
river drainage modifications, are the foreland and platform areas (Figs. 11 and 15). Most of the important
faults in this region show Quaternary reactivation,
which affects also the drainage system (Figs. 10 and
11). Along the Trotus fault there are distinct differences
in the geometry of the river network to the north (southeast directed drainage) and south (east directed drainage and local divides in the foreland). Since the near
surface geology is similar for both areas, only differences in the recent geologic activities can explain these
differences in the drainage and suggest a still active
Trotus fault. To the east and southeast the shape and
orientation of the Siret river and the geometry of the
drainage system between the Siret and Prut rivers
indicate significant Quaternary activity of the normal
PeceneagaCamena fault system (Figs. 10 and 11).
Along the Intramoesian fault local drainage systems
east of Bucharest and near the South Carpathians
(upper reaches of Dambovi_a and Ialomi_a rivers)
record a Quaternary activity of downward displacements of the southwestern block (Fig. 12C). Along
the strike of this fault system the incision of the Olt
river across the South Carpathians is probably also
related to its activity. The only major foreland fault
without any clear indication of recent activity or river
drainage diversion is the CapidavaOvidiu Fault (Figs.
10 and 11).

A very schematic section across the Eastern Carpathian bend area summarizes the relation between
the emplacement and uplift of the Middle Miocene
(Sarmatian) nappes, the Late Miocene to Quaternary
volcanism and intramontane sinistral transtensional
basins in the hinterland, the Late Pliocene to Quaternary contractional deformation and monoclinal tilting
near the Pericarpathian front, Quaternary faulting in
the foreland, and the contemporaneous evolution of
the Carpathian drainage system (Fig. 15). The chronology of tectonic activities, volcanism, major geomorphologic changes and river drainage evolution of the
area is recapitulated in Table 1.
The observed 108 Ma older drainage system is
very similar to typical drainages in orogens and associated foreland basins. Numerical modeling of the
interplay between these tectonic structures and the
river networks show radial drainage pattern from orogen to basin (foreland and hinterland) with the main
first order river circulating along strike, close to the
external limit of the foreland near the forebulge (Garcia-Castellanos, 2002). The main first order river
shows a strong asymmetry of its tributaries, which
originate mostly in the orogen and not in the forebuldge. This river, in our case the Danube river, is best
developed during oblique convergence in the foreland
area. The model suggests that the spatial organization
of this drainage is the result of the interplay between
the dynamics of fluvial deposition of the rivers entering the basin, flexural syn-tectonic tilting of the basin
and post-orogenic erosional rebound. In our case this
drainage pattern is still visible in the central Transylvanian Basin and many parts of the Carpathian foreland as well as in the drainage divides of the South
Carpathians and the East Carpathians north of the
Trotus river. Strong disturbance of this river network
in the other regions of the Eastern Carpathian bend
area, as described before, points however to a complex
ongoing post-collisional tectonic and volcanic activity,
which can no more be described by simple orogen/
foreland basin tectonics.

6. Conclusions
Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) convergence caused
the emplacement of the nappes in the foldthrust belt of
the Eastern Carpathian orogen of Romania. Post-colli-

W. Fielitz, I. Seghedi / Tectonophysics 410 (2005) 111136

sional complex neotectonic crustal deformation in this

area resulted in Late Miocene to Quaternary formation
of the topographically prominent CalimaniGurghiu
Harghita volcanic mountains, the geomorphologically
very distinct and topographically low-lying intramontane GheorgheniCiuc and Brasov pull-apart basins
and the monocline-related Fagaras basin, all possibly
related to clock-wise rotation and front block-fragmentation of the inner Carpathian crustal block. Late PliocenePleistocene out-of-sequence basement thrusting
in inner parts of the orogen combined with strong uplift
and exhumation are related to folding, thrusting and
monoclinal tilting near the (Peri-)Carpathian orogenic
front. The Carpathian foreland is characterized by
important Middle Miocene to Quaternary subsidence
and by Quaternary reactivated transverse high angle
basement faulting.
The tectonic activity redirected an older network
of E-, SE- to S-flowing rivers that crossed the
Carpathians, radiated into the foreland and was probably established during the Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) orogeny. A new (Late Miocene to Quaternary)
more active and superimposed drainage network
related to the intramontane basins is capturing the
older river system and drains generally westward
into the Transylvanian Basin. The older river drainage system is also modified by late PlioceneQuaternary folding, monoclinal tilting, normal and high
angle faulting along the Pericarpathian orogenic
front, in the foreland areas, and in the South Carpathians due to deep crustal out-of-sequence basement thrusting and by reactivated transverse high
angle basement faulting.

The project was funded through the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Society) by
providing the funding for the Sonderforschungsbereich
461 (CRC 461) at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany: bStrong Earthquakes a Challenge for Geosciences and Civil EngineeringQ, which is greatly
acknowledged. The Institute of Geodynamics of the
Romanian Academy is also acknowledged. We also
want to thank D. Badescu, L. Ma_enco, M. Melinte, A.
Szakacs and Z. Pecskay, who contributed much to the
development of this paper with their discussions and


introduction to the Romanian geology. The constructive and careful review of a first draft of the paper by
G.H. Eisbacher is also greatly appreciated. D. GarciaCastellanos and an anonymous reviewer are thanked
for their comments, which helped to improve the paper.

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