Construction of La Réunion

  • Jean-François Lénat
Part of the Active Volcanoes of the World book series (AVOLCAN)


La Réunion is a huge volcanic edifice, 220–240 km in diameter and 7 km in height, lying on a ~4000 m deep ocean floor. Unlike for most oceanic volcanoes, the lithosphere beneath La Réunion exhibits, no, or very weak, flexure. A large body of underplated material has been identified beneath the southwestern part of the island. Two volcano edifices currently compose the island: Piton des Neiges to the NW and Piton de la Fournaise to the SE. The main internal feature of the Piton des Neiges volcano is a huge intrusive complex with a lateral extent coinciding at the surface with that of three depressions called Cirques. At the eastern side of the island, a similar, though smaller, complex is associated with Les Alizés volcano, an old edifice no longer visible in the landscape. The existence of the latter is inferred by gravity, drill hole and dating data. Piton de la Fournaise is a relatively young (450–400 ka) and thin (2 km on average) edifice lying on the presumed remnants of Les Alizés edifice. Piton des Neiges and Les Alizés are inferred to be the primary volcanoes of La Réunion activity. In the submarine domain, debris avalanche deposits are regarded as the most extensive and voluminous formations. They have built four huge submarine bulges separated by submarine canyons offshore of the main rivers. The submarine bulges are essentially built of mass wasting products and sediments. The island is surrounded by a belt of hyaloclastites and pillow lavas. A few volcanic constructional features (cones, eroded piles of lava flows) have been found on the submarine flanks, with the majority being located close to the coast in continuation of the on land southwest and northeast rift zones of Piton de la Fournaise. Two exceptions are constructions, mostly buried beneath mass wasting and sedimentary deposits, to the SW and E of the island, extending tens of kilometres offshore. The first one is interpreted as an old rift zone of Piton des Neiges and the second as the flank of Les Alizés.


Magnetic Anomaly Rift Zone Debris Avalanche Magma Reservoir Pillow Lava 
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.



This synthesis benefited from discussions with many colleagues. Among them, Lydie Gailler has played a major role in the interpretation of the geophysical data. An anonymous review helped to clarify some important issues in the text.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansUniversité Blaise Pascal-CNRS-IRD, OPGCClermont-FerrandFrance

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