The volcano-tectonic evolution of Concepción, Nicaragua

  • Andrea Borgia
  • Benjamin van Wyk de Vries
Research Article


We describe the evolution of Concepción volcano by integrating regional geology, eruptive activity, morphology, stratigraphy, petrology, structure and active deformation data. This Nicaraguan volcano is set close to the back limb of the northwest-trending Tertiary Rivas anticline, a regional structure that bounds the southwest side of Lake Nicaragua. Concepción rises 1,600 m above a 1-km-thick sequence of Quaternary lacustrine mud-stones. There is no record of volcanism in the lake prior to Concepción. In addition, the only nearby volcano, Maderas volcano, has not deposited material on Concepción because of the trade winds. Thus, Concepción (and Made ras, too) can be considered as pristine volcanic environments, unaffected by other centres. A topographic rise forms an annulus 20 km in diameter around the cone. The rise is created by thrust-related folds at the western base, where the trade winds have accumulated a thick sequence of tephra, and by mud diapirs at the eastern base where only lake mudstones are present. Four magmatic-eruptive episodes exist in the stratigraphic record. The first begins with primitive low-alumina basalt and subsequently evolves to dacitic compositions. The following three episodes begin with high-alumina basalts and evolve only to silicic andesites. The occurrence of the high-alumina basalt after the first episode is indicative of crystal fractionation at lower crustal depths. The first episode may be associated with a compressive phase of volcano evolution. In this phase, the edifice load compresses substrata, allowing a longer magma residence time and differentiation in a shallow reservoir (possibly located at the density contrast between the lake sediments and the Tertiary flysch). During the next three episodes the weak sediments below the volcano started to rupture and yield under its increasing load, beginning a thrusting/diapiring phase of volcano evolution. Because of outward thrusting, vertical and horizontal stresses above the chamber were reduced, allowing magma to erupt more easily and to reach a lesser degree of evolution. If we consider the future evolution of Concepción, the differentiation in the shallow reservoir has probably generated a cumulitic complex, which eventually will start to deform and spread, beginning another, this time plutonic, spreading phase. This phase, which may be beginning now, could allow less evolved magmas to be erupted again. Four components influence the phases of volcano evolution: (1) the regional geology that is the boundary condition of the environment, (2) the substrata rheology that controls deformation, (3) the load of the volcanic edifice and (4) the magma, which provides the input of mass and energy. Our model of volcanic evolution suggests that Concepción is a complex geologic environment. The volcanic activity, tectonics and hazards can only be constrained through a complete knowledge of the many components of this environment.


Concepción Volcano Lake Nicaragua Gravitational spreading Volcanic environment Substrata deformation Thrusting Diapirism 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de Sciences de la TerreUniversité Blaise PascalClermont-FerrandFrance

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