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Accretionary Wedge

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Encyclopedia of Marine Geosciences


Accretionary complex; Accretionary prism


Accretion defines a process at a convergent plate margin above a subduction zone where material of the subducting lower plate is scraped off and transferred to the overriding upper plate. The offscraped material is accumulated in a wedge-shaped stack of sedimentary layers sometimes containing also offscraped material from the oceanic crust of the subducting plate. It is located directly at the boundary between the two converging plates. This region is called the forearc region of the convergent plate boundary (see entry “Morphology Across a Convergent Plate Boundary” and Fig. 3 therein, this volume).


Accretionary wedges essentially develop as compressional fold-and-thrust belts which are composed primarily of oceanic-plate deposits and, in many cases, continentally derived trench-floor sediment from a nearby continental plate (Fig. 1). Sometimes scraped-off parts of the subducted oceanic lithosphere are added to...

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Correspondence to Martin Meschede .

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Meschede, M. (2015). Accretionary Wedge. In: Harff, J., Meschede, M., Petersen, S., Thiede, J. (eds) Encyclopedia of Marine Geosciences. Springer, Dordrecht.

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