Pre-Carboniferous, episodic accretion-related, orogenesis along the Laurentian margin of the northern Appalachians
Published:January 01, 2009
Cees R. van Staal, Joseph B. Whalen, Pablo Valverde-Vaquero, Alexandre Zagorevski, Neil Rogers, 2009. "Pre-Carboniferous, episodic accretion-related, orogenesis along the Laurentian margin of the northern Appalachians", Ancient Orogens and Modern Analogues, J. B. Murphy, J. D. Keppie, A. J. Hynes
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During the Early to Middle Palaeozoic, prior to formation of Pangaea, the Canadian and adjacent New England Appalachians evolved as an accretionary orogen. Episodic orogenesis mainly resulted from accretion of four microcontinents or crustal ribbons: Dashwoods, Ganderia, Avalonia and Meguma. Dashwoods is peri-Laurentian, whereas Ganderia, Avalonia and Meguma have Gondwanan provenance. Accretion led to a progressive eastwards (present co-ordinates) migration of the onset of collision-related deformation, metamorphism and magmatism. Voluminous, syn-collisional felsic granitoid-dominated pulses are explained as products of slab-breakoff rather than contemporaneous slab subduction. The four phases of orogenesis associated with accretion of these microcontinents are known as the Taconic, Salinic, Acadian and Neoacadian orogenies, respectively. The Ordovician Taconic orogeny was a composite event comprising three different phases, due to involvement of three peri-Laurentian oceanic and continental terranes. The Taconic orogeny was terminated with an arc–arc collision due to the docking of the active leading edge of Ganderia, the Popelogan–Victoria arc, to an active Laurentian margin (Red Indian Lake arc) during the Late Ordovician (460–450 Ma).
The Salinic orogeny was due to Late Ordovician–Early Silurian (450–423 Ma) closure of the Tetagouche–Exploits backarc basin, which separated the active leading edge of Ganderia from its trailing passive edge, the Gander margin. Salinic closure was initiated following accretion of the active leading edge of Ganderia to Laurentia and stepping back of the west-directed subduction zone behind the accreted Popelogan–Victoria arc. The Salinic orogeny was immediately followed by Late Silurian–Early Devonian accretion of Avalonia (421–400 Ma) and Middle Devonian–Early Carboniferous accretion of Meguma (395–350 Ma), which led to the Acadian and Neoacadian orogenies, respectively. Each accretion took place after stepping-back of the west-dipping subduction zone behind an earlier accreted crustal ribbon, which led to progressive outboard growth of Laurentia. The Acadian orogeny was characterized by a flat-slab setting after the onset of collision, which coincided with rapid southerly palaeolatitudinal motion of Laurentia. Acadian orogenesis preferentially started in the hot and hence, weak backarc region. Subsequently it was characterized by a time-transgressive, hinterland migrating fold-and-thrust belt antithetic to the west-dipping A–subduction zone. The Acadian deformation front appears to have been closely tracked in space by migration of the Acadian magmatic front. Syn-orogenic, Acadian magmatism is interpreted to mainly represent partial melting of subducted fore-arc material and pockets of fluid-fluxed asthenosphere above the flat-slab, in areas where Ganderian's lithosphere was thinned by extension during Silurian subduction of the Acadian oceanic slab. Final Acadian magmatism from 395–c. 375 Ma is tentatively attributed to slab-breakoff.
Neoacadian accretion of Meguma was accommodated by wedging of the leading edge of Laurentia, which at this time was represented by Avalonia. The Neoacadian was devoid of any accompanying arc magmatism, probably because it was characterized by a flat-slab setting throughout its history.
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Ancient Orogens and Modern Analogues
Plate tectonics provide a unifying conceptual framework for the understanding of Phanerozoic orogens. More controversially, recent syntheses apply these principles as far back as the Early Archaean. Many ancient orogens are, however, poorly preserved and the processes responsible for them are not well understood. The effects of processes such as delamination, subduction of oceanic and aseismic ridges, overriding of plumes and subduction erosion are rarely identified in ancient orogens, although they have a profound effect on Cenozoic orogens. However, deeply eroded ancient orogens provide insights into the hidden roots of modern orogens. Recent advances in analytical techniques, as well as in fields such as geodynamics, have provided fresh insights into ancient orogenic belts, so that realistic modern analogies can now be applied. This Special Publication offers up-to-date reviews and models for some of the most important orogenic belts developed over the past 2.5 billion years of Earth history.