Australia–SE Asia collision: plate tectonics and crustal flow
Robert Hall, 2011. "Australia–SE Asia collision: plate tectonics and crustal flow", The SE Asian Gateway: History and Tectonics of the Australia-Asia Collision, R. Hall, M. A. Cottam, M. E. J. Wilson
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The Sundaland core of SE Asia is a heterogeneous assemblage of Tethyan sutures and Gondwana fragments. Its complex basement structure was one major influence on Cenozoic tectonics; the rifting history of the north Australian margin was another. Fragments that rifted from Australia in the Jurassic collided with Sundaland in the Cretaceous and terminated subduction. From 90 to 45 Ma Sundaland was largely surrounded by inactive margins with localized strike-slip deformation, extension and subduction. At 45 Ma Australia began to move north, and subduction resumed beneath Sundaland. At 23 Ma the Sula Spur promontory collided with the Sundaland margin. From 15 Ma there was subduction hinge rollback into the Banda oceanic embayment, major extension, and later collision of the Banda volcanic arc with the southern margin of the embayment. However, this plate tectonic framework cannot be reduced to a microplate scale to explain Cenozoic deformation. Sundaland has a weak thin lithosphere, highly responsive to plate boundary forces and a hot weak deep crust has flowed in response to tectonic and topographic forces, and sedimentary loading. Gravity-driven movements of the upper crust, unusually rapid vertical motions, exceptionally high rates of erosion, and massive movements of sediment have characterized this region.
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Collision between Australia and SE Asia began in the Early Miocene and reduced the former wide ocean between them to a complex passage which connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Today, the Indonesian Throughflow passes through this gateway and plays an important role in global thermohaline flow. The surrounding region contains the maximum global diversity for many marine and terrestrial organisms. Reconstruction of this geologically complex region is essential for understanding its role in oceanic and atmospheric circulation, climate impacts, and the origin of its biodiversity.
The papers in this volume discuss the Palaeozoic to Cenozoic geological background to Australia and SE Asia collision. They provide the background for accounts of the modern Indonesian Throughflow and oceanographic changes since the Neogene, and consider aspects of the region’s climate history.