Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 407–421 | Cite as

The interplay between collapse structures, hydrothermal systems, and magma intrusions: the case of the central area of Piton de la Fournaise volcano

  • Jean-François LénatEmail author
  • Patrick Bachèlery
  • Aline Peltier
Research Article


We explore the possible relationships between a structural heterogeneity, the hydrothermal system, and the intrusive activity at Piton de la Fournaise volcano. Geological and geophysical data show that as the result of repeated collapses (the last one in 2007), a cylinder of faulted, fractured, and crumbled rocks must exist between the surface and the top of a magma reservoir at about sea level. This structure constitutes a major geological heterogeneity. An obvious spatial correlation exists between this column of fractured and brecciated rock and the location of (1) most of the seismic activity, (2) a low-resistivity dome, (3) a huge self-potential anomaly, (4) thermal evidence of hydrothermal activity, and (5) the root of magma intrusions. The dominant factors that make this structural heterogeneity a trap for the activity are probably its higher permeability and its weaker mechanical strength. Evidence exists for the presence of an active hydrothermal system confined in this permeable zone. The long-term stability of the activated zone above sea level and the similarity of the pre-eruptive crises, in spite of the inferred large perturbation of the magmatic system in 1998, suggest a common triggering mechanism for all the eruptions since at least the first data recorded by the observatory in 1980. This mechanism can be purely magmatic, resulting from the pressurization of a reservoir, but we also propose that the hydrothermal system may play a role in the development of volcanic instabilities. A qualitative model is proposed to explain the triggering of magma intrusions by hydrothermal processes, and its speculative aspects are discussed. This work represents a first attempt to integrate the structural and dynamic information in a unified framework at Piton de la Fournaise.


Collapse Hydrothermal system Piton de la Fournaise Eruption Pre-eruptive crisis Magma transfer 



This work owes much to the members of the Volcanological Observatory who have collected monitoring data since 1980. Florent Brenguier and Louis De Barros have kindly communicated and discussed preliminary data obtained in the framework of the ongoing project “UNDERVOLC”. Highly helpful information on the thermodynamics of hydrothermal systems was provided by Régis Thiéry. The remarks and suggestions from two anonymous reviewers, Donald Swanson and Maurizio Ripepe, have considerably contributed to improved presentation of our work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-François Lénat
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Patrick Bachèlery
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Aline Peltier
    • 5
  1. 1.Clermont Université, Université Blaise Pascal, Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansClermont-FerrandFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, UMR 6524, LMVClermont-FerrandFrance
  3. 3.IRD, R 163, LMVClermont-FerrandFrance
  4. 4.Laboratoire GéoSciences Réunion, Université de La Réunion, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, CNRS, UMR 7154-Géologie des Systèmes VolcaniquesSaint-Denis Cedex 9France
  5. 5.Laboratoire Géologie des Systèmes Volcaniques, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, CNRS, UMR 7154ParisFrance

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