A new hypothesis on the genesis of the Piano di Oneto, located in the Upper Val Graveglia (Ligurian Apennines) (Fig. 1), on the basis of field studies and a re-examination of the features distinguishable in geological and topographical maps and aerial photographs. The Piano di Oneto is one of the largest flat areas of the Ligurian Apennines; interpreted as an epigeal form of prevalently carsic origin, it has been defined more than once as the largest existing “dolina” in eastern Liguria (Fig. 7). A review of the available data, an analysis of the morphological features at both the macro- and mesoscale and various geological and morphotectonic characteristics provide a new basis for discussion. From a geological point of view (Fig. 2) the area is characterised by formations associable with the Val di Vara Supergroup (Internal Ligurids of various authors), divided into two main units, the underlying Mt. Porcile Unit and the overlying Mt. Zatta Unit (Gottero Unit of various authors). The former contains notable ophiolitic sequences (basalts, serpentinites), a volcano-sedimentary complex (ophiolitic breccias) and a sedimentary cover (Mt. Alpe Jaspers, Calpionelle Limestones, Palombini Clays). A little to the east of the Val Graveglia – Val di Vara watershed, under the Mt. Porcile Unit, lies the Colli-Tavarone Formation (Upper Cretaceous – Palaeocene), which consists of layered claystones interspersed with thin layers of siltites and calcarenites. Various authors have studied the structure of this area, which is exceptionally complex. Its complexity is evident in the cross section reported in Fig. 3, the trace of which is visible in Fig. 2. All the structural reconstructions made of the area underline the fact that there is no carbonatic mass under the Piano di Oneto. Since the Pliocene, the complicated structural situation described above has been subjected to extensional tectonics that have given it its peculiar morphostructural conditions and been the main underlying cause of landslides in this zone as in other parts of Liguria. An analysis of the orientation of the hydrographic network and the watershed lines indicate their close dependence on the main neotectonic lines, which are oriented ENE – WSW (56° - 66°), NNW – SSE (150°), N – S and E – W. It is possible to say that the majority of the geomorphological alignments correspond to fracture systems or Plio-Quaternary faults but not to the more ancient faults visible in Fig. 2. In the area under study (Fig. 6) there are morphological features (reverse slopes, bulges and landslides) that are specific signs of gravitational slope deformations. The studies carried out indicate that the genesis of the Piano di Oneto should be looked for in a “deep-seated gravitational slope deformation” caused by the high energy of the relief associated with the uplift of the zone and the high erosive capacity of the watercourses that have caused the deepening of the hydrographic network. Given the above scenario, the depression under study could be interpreted as the filling up of a trench running parallel to the ridge (NW – SE) with silty-clayey material washed down from the surrounding slopes (Figs. 6 and 9). We believe that only its extension towards the WSW, where there seem to be Calpionelle Limestones, can be imputed to carsic and erosive phenomena.
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