, Volume 93, Issue 2, pp 207-223

Plio-Pleistocene transpressional reactivation of Paleozoic and Paleogene structures in the Rhine-Bresse transform zone (northern Switzerland and eastern France)

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Pliocene to recent uplift and shortening in the southern Rhinegraben is documented by deformation of Pliocene fluvial gravels, deposited on a nearly planar surface, as well as by progressive deflection and capture of rivers. This deformation is suggested to result from thick-skinned tectonic movements as evidenced by observations on seismic records, which demonstrate a spatial coincidence between en-échelon anticlines at the surface and faults located in the crystalline basement. These findings contradict the often invoked thin-skinned tectonism in the recent tectonic history of the Rhinegraben. In particular the transfer zone between the Rhinegraben and the Bressegraben is very suitable for reactivation under the present day stress field. Thick-skinned reactivation of faults in the basement is also expressed by focal plane mechanisms of recent earthquakes showing strike-slip- rather than reverse faulting characteristics. This is of importance for the densely populated and industrialised southern Rhinegraben, previously affected by large earthquakes in historical times (e.g. Basel 1356).