A major high-strain zone in the Lewisian Complex in the Loch Torridon area, NW Scotland: insights into deep crustal deformation
Published:January 01, 2007
John Wheeler, 2007. "A major high-strain zone in the Lewisian Complex in the Loch Torridon area, NW Scotland: insights into deep crustal deformation", Deformation of the Continental Crust: The Legacy of Mike Coward, A. C. Ries, R. W. H. Butler, R. H. Graham
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The Lewisian Complex is an Archaean-Proterozoic high-grade gneiss region with widespread amphibolite-facies fabrics. These fabrics have, on the 100 km scale, a subhorizontal enveloping surface and are interpreted as forming in gently dipping crustal-scale shear zones and steeper lateral ramp structures. The Scourie dyke swarm, of Proterozoic age, runs NW-SE subvertically outside such zones, but is transformed into subhorizontal concordant amphibolite sheets within them. The terms ‘Scourian’ and ‘Laxfordian’ are used to describe pre-dyke and post-dyke fabrics and events. In the southern mainland Lewisian at Loch Torridon, unmodified Scourian gneisses in the north pass southwards into lozenges bounded by anastomosing zones of Laxfordian deformation, and eventually to a region consisting entirely of Laxfordian fabrics. This geometry is compatible with a major Laxfordian shear zone that dips northeastwards beneath a Scourian hanging wall. Detailed maps show that structures on the metre to kilometre scale do not relate in a simple way to the crustal shear zone model for four reasons. First, many amphibolite-facies fabrics in the quartzo-feldspathic gneisses predate the dykes (they relate to a late Scourian or ‘Inverian’ event), so the dykes cannot be used to infer overall geometry and movement sense. A few structures along the Loch Roag Line, the most northeasterly high-strain belt in the Loch Torridon inliers, may indicate syntectonic dyke emplacement. Second, local shear with opposing senses is present in both the pre-dyke and post-dyke (Laxfordian) deformation. Third, foliation deflections on a variety of scales relate more to varying shear planes than to the deflection caused by increasing simple shear strain, and cannot be used to infer shear sense. Fourth, there is pure-shear stretching within the gneisses that masks the effects of simple shear. These structures can be incorporated into a crustal-scale shear zone model, but are not diagnostic of it. The scatter of foliation planes with a relatively constant lineation is a feature of other crustal-scale high-strain zones (e.g. Canisp, Nordre Strømfjord), although different explanations are available. Other high-strain zones (e.g. the Laxford Front) show a spatially varying lineation pattern, but this could relate more to a varying shear direction than to deflections of linear features into a single movement direction. The geometry of classic simple shear is not versatile enough to explain the kilometre-scale geometry of such high-strain zone, although it may work well in local subareas.
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Deformation of the Continental Crust: The Legacy of Mike Coward
This Special Publication, in memory and celebration of the work of Professor Mike Coward, is about the deformation of the continental lithosphere. The collected papers discuss geometry, structural principles, processes and problems in a wide range of tectonic settings and thereby reflect the breadth of Coward's interests. They encompass the evolution of Precambrian basement gneiss terrains, the geometry and evolution of thrust systems, basement involvement and structural inheritance in basins, syn-orogenic extension, salt tectonics, the implication of structural evolution on hydrocarbon prospectivity and structural controls on mineralization. Examples are drawn from the Lewisian and Moine Thrust Belt of NW Scotland, the Italian Apennines, NW Himalayas, the Cyclades, Oman, Zagros Mountains, Colombian Cordillera, Carpathians, North Sea, offshore Brazil, regional studies of the Irumide Belt (central Africa), Taurus Mountains (Turkey), greater South America, and from the Witwatersrand Basin of South Africa and the Antler Orogeny of SW USA.