Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 74, Issue 9, pp 1945–1961 | Cite as

Anatomy of Piton de la Fournaise volcano (La Réunion, Indian Ocean)

  • Jean-François Lénat
  • Patrick Bachèlery
  • Olivier Merle
Research Article


The aim of this work is to propose a general model of Piton de la Fournaise volcano using information from geological and geophysical studies. Firstly, we make a graphical compilation of all available geophysical information along a W–E profile. Secondly, we construct a geological section that integrates both the geophysical information and the geological information. The lithosphere beneath Piton de la Fournaise is not significantly flexed, and the crust is underlain by an underplating body, which might represent the deep magma reservoir for La Réunion volcanism. Piton de la Fournaise is a relatively thin volcano lying on a huge volcanic construction attributed mostly to Les Alizés volcano. Indeed, if the differentiated rocks observed at the bottom of the Rivière des Remparts are the top of Les Alizés volcano, the interface with Piton de La Fournaise may be located at about sea level beneath the summit area. The endogenous constructions (intrusive complexes) related to Les Alizés and Piton de la Fournaise volcanoes represent a large volume. The huge intrusive complex of Les Alizés volcano probably rests on the top of the oceanic crust and appears to have a buttressing effect for the present eastern volcano-tectonic activity of Piton de la Fournaise. The early Piton de la Fournaise edifice was built around a focus located beneath the Plaine des Sables area. The center subsequently moved 5–6 km eastward to its current location. The dense, high-velocity body beneath the Plaines des Sables and the western part of the Enclos probably corresponds to the hypovolcanic intrusive complex that developed before the volcanic center shifted to its present-day position. Magma reservoirs may have existed, and may still exist, as illustrated by the March 1998 crisis, at the mechanical and density interface between the oceanic crust and the Les Alizés edifice. Strong evidence also exists for the presence of a shallower magma reservoir located near sea level beneath the summit. The March 1998 pre-eruptive seismic pattern (location and upward migration) seems to be evidence for a transfer of magma between the two reservoirs. The dominant structural feature of the central zone is a collapse structure beneath the summit craters, above the inferred magma reservoir near sea level. The collapsed column constitutes a major mechanical heterogeneity and concentrates most of the seismic, intrusive, and hydrothermal activity because of its higher permeability and weaker mechanical strength.


Piton de la Fournaise Geophysical structure Volcano growth Intrusive complex Magma transfer 



As a synthesis of many published works, this article owes much to all the individuals that have steadily contributed to edifying a large body of observations and analyses on Piton de la Fournaise. Because this article is meant as a general synthesis, we have been careful to quote the main published contributions, but we may have missed some and we hope the concerned authors will understand. This is Laboratory of Excellence ClerVolc contribution no. 27.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-François Lénat
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Patrick Bachèlery
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Olivier Merle
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans, Clermont UniversitéUniversité Blaise PascalClermont-FerrandFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, UMR 6524, LMVClermont-FerrandFrance
  3. 3.IRD, R 163, LMVClermont-FerrandFrance
  4. 4.Laboratoire GéoSciences RéunionUniversité de La RéunionSaint-Denis de La RéunionFrance

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