The structural evolution of dilational stepovers in regional transtensional zones
Published:January 01, 2007
N.De Paola, R. E. Holdsworth, C. Collettini, K. J. W. Mccaffrey, M. R. Barchi, 2007. "The structural evolution of dilational stepovers in regional transtensional zones", Tectonics of Strike-Slip Restraining and Releasing Bends, W. D. Cunningham, P. Mann
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We propose a theoretical model, supported by a field study, to describe the patterns of fault/fracture meshes formed within dilational stepovers developed along faults accommodating regional scale wrench-dominated transtension. The geometry and kinematics of the faulting in the dilational stepovers is related to the angle of divergence (α), and differs from the patterns traditionally predicted in dilation zones associated with boundary faults accommodating strike-slip displacements (where α = 0°). For low values of oblique divergence (α<30°) and low strain, the fault–fracture mesh comprises interlinked tensile fractures and shear-extensional planes, consistent with wrench-dominated transtension. At higher values of strain, a switch occurs from wrench- to extension-dominated transtension, leading to the reactivation and/or disruption of the early-formed structures. These structural processes lead to the development of a geometrically complex and kinematically heterogeneous fault pattern, which may affect and/or perturb the development of a through-going fault linking and facilitating the slip transfer between the two overlapping fault segments. As a result, dilational stepover zones will tend to form long-lived sites of localized extension and subsidence in regional transtensional tectonic settings. Cyclic increases/decreases of structural permeability will be related to slip on the major boundary faults that control the distribution of fluid-flow paths and, consequently, the long- and short-term structural evolution of these sites. Our model also predicts complex and more realistic subsurface fluid migration pathways relevant to our current understanding of hydrothermal ore deposits and hydrocarbon migration and storage.
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Tectonics of Strike-Slip Restraining and Releasing Bends
Restraining and releasing bends are common, but enigmatic features of strike-slip fault systems occurring in all crustal environments and at regional to microscopic scales of observation. Regional-scale restraining bends are sites of mountain building, transpressional deformation and basement exhumation, whereas releasing bends are sites of topographic subsidence, transtensional deformation, basin sedimentation and possible volcanism and economic mineralization. Because restraining and releasing bends often occur as singular self-contained domains of complex deformation, they are appealing natural laboratories for Earth scientists to study fault processes, earthquake seismology, active faulting and sedimentation, fault and fluid-flow relationships, links between tectonics and topography, tectonic and erosional controls on exhumation, and tectonic geomorphology.
This volume addresses the tectonic complexity and diversity of strike-slip restraining and releasing bends with 18 contributions divided into four thematic sections: (1) a topical review of fault bends and their global distribution; (2) bends, sedimentary basins and earthquake hazards; (3) restraining bends, transpressional deformation and basement controls on development; (4) releasing bends, transtensional deformation and fluid flow.