, Volume 93, Issue 3, pp 432-466
Date: 03 Jun 2004

New models for evolution of magma-poor rifted margins based on a review of data and concepts from West Iberia and the Alps

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Direct observation and extensive sampling in ancient margins exposed in the Alps, combined with drill-hole and geophysical data from the present-day Iberia margin, result in new concepts for the strain evolution and near-surface response to lithospheric rupturing at magma-poor rifted margins. This paper reviews data and tectonic concepts derived from these two margins and proposes that extension, leading to thinning and final rupturing of the continental lithosphere, is accommodated by three fault systems, each of them characterized by a specific temporal and spatial evolution during rifting of the margin, by its fault geometry, and its surface response. The data presented in this paper suggest that margin architecture and distribution of rift structures within the future margin are controlled first by inherited heterogeneities within the lithosphere leading to a contrasting behaviour of the future distal and proximal margins during an initial stage of rifting. The place of final break-up appears to be determined early in the evolution of the margin and occurs where the crust has been thinned during a first stage to less than 10 kilometres. During final break-up, the rheology of the extending lithosphere is controlled by the thermal structure related to the rise of the asthenosphere and by serpentinization and magmatic processes.

“Dedicated to Daniel Bernoulli who taught me to compare the geological record of oceans and orogens”