Earthquakes are widely recognized as triggers for turbidites, submarine debris flows and slumps. In tectonically active areas, surprisingly small changes in stress can trigger seismic events, implying that past sea level changes may be important in controlling the timing of seismicity and the occurrence of turbidites. We apply this idea in an analysis of turbidites from the upper Cretaceous-Paleocene Scaglia Rossa Formation of the Umbria-Marches region of Italy. These turbidites are composed of resedimented foraminiferal tests derived from fluidizing deep-water (∼1500 m), pelagic sediments; seismic triggering is the most likely triggering mechanism given this setting and composition. The timing of these turbidites (and associated synsedimentary slumps), constrained by biostratigraphy and magnetostratigraphy, reveals an unusual, non-random temporal pattern that appears to correlate well with proposed eustatic fluctuations. This correlation between turbidites and eustatic fluctuations leads us to suggest that stress and pore fluid pressure changes associated with changing sea level may trigger periods of increased seismicity in the geological past.
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