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Tertiary subduction, collision and exhumation recorded in the Adula nappe, central Alps

Thorsten J. Nagel
Thorsten J. Nagel
Geologisches Institut der Universität Bonn, Nussallee 8, D-53115 Bonn, Germany (e-mail:
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January 01, 2008


The Adula nappe in the Central Alps represents a lithospheric mélange assembled in a south-dipping subduction zone during the Tertiary orogenic cycle. It consists of several heterogeneous lobes which are stacked in a forward-dipping duplex geometry. Eclogites, garnet peridotites and garnet-white-mica schists record southward-increasing peak pressure conditions which culminate at 12–17 kbar/500–600 °C in the north and 30 kbar/800–850 °C in the south. Some studies infer even higher peak pressures for the garnet peridotite body of Alpe Arami. The present-day metamorphic field gradient for peak pressures exceeds the lithostatic pressure gradient. So far, only eclogites and garnet peridotites from the Cima Lunga complex in the south and the adjacent Southern Steep Belt have yielded Tertiary metamorphic ages for the peak-pressure stage. Some recent studies propose that the Adula nappe got assembled after the formation of high-pressure assemblages in eclogites and garnet peridotites and reject regional high-pressure conditions in Tertiary times. This scenario, however, is in conflict with the observed continuity of metamorphic field gradients and post-peak-pressure structures. Amphibolite facies conditions post-date formation of the Central Alpine nappe stack. In this paper, the associated field gradient is explained through southward-increasing temperatures during near-isothermal decompression.

The main mylonitic foliation in the Adula nappe post-dates peak-pressure conditions. It is associated with top-to-the-north shearing and southward-increasing amounts of decompression from eclogite facies to amphibolite facies conditions. Also, the present-day supra-lithostatic field gradient for peak pressures probably results from this deformation phase and is here related to substantial vertical flattening during northward shearing. All subsequent structures affect established nappe boundaries. Pervasive Oligocene deformation events in the Adula nappe are coeval with intense shearing along the so-called Insubric mylonites and occur during ongoing isothermal decompression to around 5 kbar. They are associated with orogen-oblique to orogen-parallel stretching of unspecified amount which may considerably contribute to the exhumation of the Lepontine dome already before the onset of the well-known Miocene extension.

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Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Tectonic Aspects of the Alpine-Dinaride-Carpathian System

S. Siegesmund
S. Siegesmund
University of Göttingen, Germany
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B. Fügenschuh
B. Fügenschuh
University of Innsbruck, Austria
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N. Froitzheim
N. Froitzheim
University of Bonn, Germany
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2008




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