A high-resolution chronostratigraphy has been developed for Miocene shallow-water carbonate strata in the Cabo de Gata region of SE Spain for evaluation of local, regional and global factors that controlled platform architecture prior to and during the Messinian salinity crisis. Paleomagnetic data were collected from strata at three localities. Mean natural remanent magnetization (NRM) ranges between 1.53 ?? 10-8 and 5.2 ?? 10-3 Am2/kg. Incremental thermal and alternating field demagnetization isolated the characteristic remanent magnetization (ChRM). Rock magnetic studies show that the dominant magnetic mineral is magnetite, but mixtures of magnetite and hematite occur. A composite chronostratigraphy was derived from five stratigraphic sections. Regional stratigraphic data, biostratigraphic data, and an 40Ar/39Ar date of 8.5 ?? 0.1 Ma, for an interbedded volcanic flow, place the strata in geomagnetic polarity Chrons C4r to C3r. Sequence-stratigraphic and diagenetic evidence indicate a major unconformity at the base of depositional sequence (DS)3 that contains a prograding reef complex, suggesting that approximately 250 000 yr of record (Subchrons C3Br.2r to 3Br.1r) are missing near the Messinian-Tortonian boundary. Correlation to the GPTS shows that the studied strata represent five third- to fourth-order DSs. Basal units are temperate to subtropical ramps (DS1A, DS1B, DS2); these are overlain by subtropical to tropical reefal platforms (DS3), which are capped by subtropical to tropical cyclic carbonates (Terminal Carbonate Complex, TCC). Correlation of the Cabo de Gata record to the Melilla area of Morocco, and the Sorbas basin of Spain indicate that early - Late Tortonian ramp strata from these areas are partially time-equivalent. Similar strata are extensively developed in the Western Mediterranean and likely were influenced by a cool climate or influx of nutrients during an overall rise in global sea-level. After ramp deposition, a sequence boundary (SB3) in Cabo de Gata correlates with a sequence boundary in Morocco and a published third-order eustatic fall suggesting at least a partial eustatic control for the sequence boundary. Coral reefs began to develop earlier in Cabo de Gata than at Melilla or Sorbas, arguing for local factors affecting this major environmental transition. Later Messinian reefs (DS3) from all areas are time-equivalent, suggesting a regional or global control on their formation. Some Halimeda-rich horizons in the Western Mediterranean are not time-equivalent event strata as hypothesized by others. Correlation of the relative sea-level curve for the fringing reef complex (DS3) with a published eustatic curve suggests at least a partial third-order global eustatic control for the highstand part of the sequence. Downstepping DS3 reefs and initial subaerial exposure of earlier DS3 reef strata approximately correlate with initiation of a series of subaerial unconformities in the South Pacific. The longer-term relative fall in sea-level during DS3 downstepping reef progradation does not correlate with a published third-order eustatic fall. Eustatic sea-level fluctuations may have been associated with initiation of the Mediterranean Messinian salinity crisis, but the longer-term fall may have been linked to tectonic uplift in the Mediterranean region. Widespread distribution of 'TCC-style' cycles of approximately the same age suggests a regional (Western Mediterranean) or global control on sea-level change responsible for TCC cycles. In addition, four subaerial exposure-capped TCC cycles may correlate with similar subaerial unconformities in the South Pacific, suggesting at least a partial eustatic control on TCC cyclicity. The high rates of relative sea-level change needed to generate a minimum of 25-30 m sea-level changes associated with each cycle are consistent with glacio-eustacy along with rapid evaporitic drawdown in the Mediterranean. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.