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Book Chapter

Inverted Basins in the Alpine Foreland

P.A. Ziegler
P.A. Ziegler
Shell International Petroleum Maatschappij
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January 01, 1983


Sedimentary basins may be created by lateral divergent motions of crustal elements in the sense of plate tectonics or intraplate tectonics. Plates moving apart generate space for troughs between their margins. The troughs are filled with sediments which have been eroded at the plate edges. The depths of these depressions depend on the amount of divergence of the plates and the thickness of the crust beneath.

Convergent plate motions create compressional deformations within the plates and at their boundaries. They can result in the inversion of former sedimentary basins accompanied by structures which are typical for the occurrence of lateral compressive plate motions - anticlines, partly eroded and truncated overthrusts, reverse faults, and convergent wrench faults. Erosion processes are active simultaneously with the uplift of the anticlines, and cause secondary basins between the anticlines to be filled with sediments.

The structural style of inverted basins in the Alpine foreland of Europe is illustrated on the basis of five examples, the locations of which are given on the tectonic sketchmap: 1) Bristol Channel trough; 2) Sole Pit basin; 3) Broad Fourteens basin; 4) Western Lower Saxony basin; and the 5) Ronne Graben.

These basins developed during the Triassic to Early Cretaceous under a tensional regime and formed part of the complex Mesozoic rift system of western and central Europe. Grabens and wrench-induced troughs located in the northern Alpine foreland (for example, Sole Pit, Broad Fourteens basins, Emsland area, Ronne Graben) became inverted during the late Senonian and Paleocene. At the same time the Rhenish and particularly the Bohemian massifs became transsected by wrench and steep reverse faults along which major basement blocks were uptilted. Grabens located in the northwestern Alpine foreland were inverted during the Oligocene and Miocene.

Timing of the compressional and wrench deformation in the Alpine foreland can be related to major orogenic events in the Alpine foldbelt. They are therefore thought to be the result of compressive stresses that were transmitted into the Alpine foreland plate during the Alpine diastrophism. This would require, on one hand, a certain amount of coupling between the foreland and the Alpine foldbelt at the Alpine A-subduction zone, and, on the other hand, within the foreland itself, a decoupling between the crest and the mantle and/or decoupling within the crust.

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AAPG Studies in Geology

Seismic Expression of Structural Styles: A Picture and Work Atlas. Volume 1–The Layered Earth, Volume 2–Tectonics Of Extensional Provinces, & Volume 3–Tectonics Of Compressional Provinces

A. W. Bally
A. W. Bally
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
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Publication date:
January 01, 1983




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