Reference Work Entry

Structural Geology and Tectonics

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Science pp 187-190


  • H. P. Laubscher

History of the Concept and Scale of Its Manifestation

Décollement is French and means ‘detachment, coming unglued.’ It is used for phenomena involving bedding plane slippage or slippage on incompetent layers and thus describes a ubiquitous set of phenomena, some of which are also labeled by terms such as detachment faulting, disharmonic folding, mechanical decoupling, bedding plane faulting, gravity sliding, and thin-skin tectonics.

The history of the concept is very old. Independent movement of a rug on the floor or a tablecloth (nappe in French) on a table has been part of our daily experience from time immemorial. Transitional stages to large-scale structural phenomena are subaquatic sliding (Fig. 1) with sometimes minute beds folded and wrinkled like a tablecloth, and of the same dimension, over large-scale slides (Fig. 2), to independent movements of entire sedimentary sequences, particularly in marginal fold and thrust belt ...

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