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We interpret the strain and stress fields of the western/central Alpine arc on the basis of 2.5D finite element modelling and a recent seismotectonic synthesis. Models have fixed boundary forces and different crustal geometries, so that they respond to buoyancy forces (variations in gravitational potential energies). The seismotectonic regime, characterized by orogen-perpendicular extension in the high topographic core of the belt and local orogenperpendicular compressional/transpressional deformation in the external zones, appears to be very close to the modelled gravitational regime. Rotation of Apulia has a minor effect on the current strain or stress fields of the Alpine realm. Nevertheless, it could help to explain the orogen-parallel dextral faulting that is observed all along external zones, from the northern Valais to the Argentera external crystalline massif. Our results highlight the consequences for the Alpine realm of ongoing convergence between the African and European plates. Our interpretation is that collision is no longer ongoing and that buoyancy-driven stresses dominate the present-day geodynamics of the western/central Alps.

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