The Arc–Continent Collision in Taiwan

  • T. Byrne
  • Y.-C. Chan
  • R.-J. Rau
  • C.-Y. Lu
  • Y.-H. Lee
  • Y.-J. Wang
Part of the Frontiers in Earth Sciences book series (FRONTIERS)


We present a new compilation of magnetic, geologic, GPS and seismic data and propose that the geometry and kinematics of the Taiwan arc–continent collision are dominated by the partial subduction of a continental margin promontory and associated fracture zone. A prominent magnetic high in the pre-collision zone southwest of Taiwan serves as proxy for the edge of the continental crust of normal thickness (i.e., ~30 km). The high ends abruptly in central Taiwan, suggesting truncation by a NW-striking fault zone interpreted as a rift-related transfer zone. The NW-striking fault zone correlates with a steeply dipping, crustal-scale cluster of earthquakes recognized as the Sanyi-Puli seismic zone, indicating reactivation of the transfer zone. The truncated anomaly and transfer zone define a triangular-shaped continental margin promontory partially subducted beneath Taiwan. Island-wide GPS data show: (1) divergent flow around the promontory; (2) significant shortening between the promontory and the arc in the central part of Taiwan; and (3) significant lateral extrusion of the orogen south of the promontory–arc collision. Collision of the relatively rigid promontory resulted in a tripartite division of the fold and thrust belt as it developed from about 2 Ma to present and the development of a recess or syntaxis in the central part of the Central Range. The syntaxis correlates with the highest topography, thickest crust and highest values of P-wave attenuation, suggesting that it may be an area of high rates of rock uplift and exhumation, consistent with other orogenic syntaxes recognized around the world. This interpretation is also consistent with geomorphic parameters from the central part of the Central Range that indicate high rates of uplift and with the absence of seismicity in this area. Although detailed thermochronologic and kinematic data are limited in central Taiwan, the available data suggest a recent increase in rates of exhumation consistent with the interpretation that the promontory collided relatively recently (~2 Ma).


Continental Margin Magnetic Anomaly Okinawa Trough Thrust Belt Chelungpu Fault 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to the many colleagues in Taiwan who have kindly shared their data and ideas, and helped with the numerous logistical challenges over the years. We also acknowledge and appreciate support from the Department of Geological Sciences at the National Taiwan University and the Institute of Earth Sciences, Academia Sinica. Support from the Fulbright Foundation (to Byrne) and the National Science Foundation (EAR0711353 and EAR0738979) is also gratefully acknowledged. The ideas and conclusions were improved through numerous discussions with Jon Gourley, Jon Lewis, Chung Huang, Dave Mirakian and Hao-Tsu Chu. The support and patience of the editors, Dennis Brown and Paul Ryan is greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Byrne
    • 1
  • Y.-C. Chan
    • 2
  • R.-J. Rau
    • 3
  • C.-Y. Lu
    • 4
  • Y.-H. Lee
    • 5
  • Y.-J. Wang
    • 6
  1. 1.Center for Integrative GeosciencesUniversity of ConnecticutMansfieldUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Earth SciencesAcademia SinicaTaipeiROC
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesNational Cheng Kung UniversityTainanROC
  4. 4.Department of Geological SciencesNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiROC
  5. 5.Earth and Environmental SciencesNational Chung Cheng UniversityChiayiROC
  6. 6.Institute of GeophysicsNational Central UniversityJhungliROC

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