Change in tectonic force inferred from basin subsidence: Implications for the dynamical aspects of back-arc rifting in the western Mediterranean

T. Yamasaki, R.A. Stephenson

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    A method has been developed that allows temporal changes in tectonic force during rift basin formation to be inferred from observed tectonic subsidence curves and has been applied to the Gulf of Lions (the Provençal Basin) and the Valencia Trough in order to gain some understanding of the dynamical aspects of back-arc basin rifting in the western Mediterranean Sea. Two distinct tectonic force regimes active at different times during the evolution of each of these back-arc basins are identified. The first, which can be seen in both basins, is characterized by tensional forces that gradually abate with time to vanish some ∼ 20 my after the onset of rifting. The magnitude of tectonic force required to initiate the rifting process is significantly greater in the Valencia Trough than in the Provençal Basin. Subsequently, the dynamic development of these back-arc basins differs. In the Provençal Basin, there is a renewal of force, with extensional deformation concentrated in the central part of the rift whereas, in the Valencia Trough, the second tectonic force regime is inferred to be one that causes compression that subsequently relaxes. Such temporal patterns of tectonic force are interpreted to be related to the causative driving processes, allowing constraints to be placed on the transient interaction between the overriding and subducting plates in a back-arc setting. The models also allow inferences to be made about the rheological structure of the lithosphere. A significant variation of initial crustal thickness is inferred for the Provençal Basin but not for the Valencia Trough. In both basins, a wet rheology is required in order to initiate rifting given currently accepted bounds on tectonic force magnitudes; adoption of a dry rheology leads to insufficiently high strain rates for significant lithosphere extension in both cases. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)174-183
    JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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