Nature of the continent–ocean transition zone along the southern Australian continental margin: a comparison of the Naturaliste Plateau, SW Australia, and the central Great Australian Bight sectors
N. G. Direen, I. Borissova, H. M. J. Stagg, J. B. Colwell, P. A. Symonds, 2007. "Nature of the continent–ocean transition zone along the southern Australian continental margin: a comparison of the Naturaliste Plateau, SW Australia, and the central Great Australian Bight sectors", Imaging, Mapping and Modelling Continental Lithosphere Extension and Breakup, G. D. Karner, G. Manatschal, L. M. Pinheiro
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We document the interpretation of three crustal sections from coincident deep seismic reflection, gravity and magnetic data acquired on Australia's southern margin: one section from the Naturaliste Plateau and the Diamantina Zone; and two in the Great Australian Bight (GAB). Interpretations are based on an integrated study of deep multichannel seismic, gravity and magnetic data, together with sparse sonobuoy and dredging information.
All interpreted sections of the margin show a transition from thinned continental crust, through a wide continent ocean transition zone (COTZ). In the GAB the transition is to slow sea-floor spreading oceanic crust that dates from breakup in the Campanian (c. 83 Ma); in the Naturaliste–Diamantina margin the earliest oceanic crust is undated. The COTZ on these margins is geologically and geophysically complex, but interpretation of all data, including dredge hauls, is consistent with the presence of a mixture of modified continental lower crust, breakup related volcanics and exhumed continental mantle. Serpentinized detachment faults are not well imaged, but have been inferred from high-amplitude magnetic signatures interpreted to arise from magnetite associated with the hydration of peridotites. Alternative models for the structure of the COTZ, involving either mafic underplating or aborted sea-floor spreading, have been explored, but are considered unlikely on this margin.
Similarity in the final architecture of these margins has major implications for the nature of rifting in the Southern Rift System, and may point to the entire 4000 km-long system being non-volcanic in character.
Second-order differences in geometry and morphology of the two areas studied are unlikely to be a function of strain rate. Instead, they probably reflect complexities owing to the multiple tectonic events that occurred during final Gondwanide fragmentation. The most dramatic of these is the impact of hotspot activity in the Kerguelen Plateau, which commenced some 50 Ma prior to final breakup in that sector.
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This book summarizes our present understanding of the formation of passive continental margins and their ocean–continent transitions. It outlines the geological, geophysical and petrological observations that characterize extensional systems, and how such observations can guide and constrain dynamic and kinematic models of continental lithosphere extension, breakup and the inception of organized sea-floor spreading. The book focuses on imaging, mapping and modelling lithospheric extensional systems, at both the regional scale using dynamic models to the local scale of individual basins using kinematic models, with an emphasis on capturing the extensional history of the Iberia and Newfoundland margins. The results from a number of other extensional regimes are presented to provide comparisons with the North Atlantic studies; these range from the Tethyan realm and the northern Red Sea to the western and southern Australian margins, the Basin and Range Province, and the Woodlark basin of Papua New Guinea. All of these field studies, combined with lessons learnt from the modelling, are used to address fundamental questions about the extreme deformation of continental lithosphere.