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ABSTRACT

The southern Appalachian orogen is a Paleozoic accretionary-collisional orogen that formed as the result of three Paleozoic orogenies, Taconic, Acadian and Neoacadian, and Alleghanian orogenies. The Blue Ridge–Piedmont megathrust sheet exposes various crystalline terranes of the Blue Ridge and Inner Piedmont that record the different effects of these orogenies. The western Blue Ridge is the Neoproterozoic to Ordovician Laurentian margin. Constructed on Mesoproterozoic basement, 1.2–1.0 Ga, the western Blue Ridge transitions from two rifting events at ca. 750 Ma and ca. 565 Ma to an Early Cambrian passive margin and then carbonate bank. The Hayesville fault marks the Taconic suture and separates the western Blue Ridge from distal peri-Laurentian terranes of the central and eastern Blue Ridge, which are the Cartoogechaye, Cowrock, Dahlonega gold belt, and Tugaloo terranes. The central and eastern Blue Ridge terranes are dominantly clastic in composition, intruded by Ordovician to Mississippian granitoids, and contain ultramafic and mafic rocks, suggesting deposition on oceanic crust. These terranes accreted to the western Blue Ridge during the Taconic orogeny at 462–448 Ma, resulting in metamorphism dated with SHRIMP (sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe) U-Pb ages of metamorphic zircon. The Inner Piedmont, which is separated from the Blue Ridge by the Brevard fault zone, experienced upper amphibolite, sillimanite I and higher-grade ­metamorphism during the Acadian and Neoacadian orogenies, 395–345 Ma. These events also affected the eastern Blue Ridge, and parts of the western Blue Ridge. The Acadian and Neoacadian orogeny is the result of the oblique collision and accretion of the peri-Gondwanan Carolina superterrane overriding the Inner Piedmont. During this collision, the Inner Piedmont was a forced mid-crustal orogenic channel that flowed NW-, W-, and SW-directed from underneath the Carolina superterrane. The Alleghanian orogeny thrust these terranes northwestward as part of the Blue Ridge–Piedmont megathrust sheet during the collision of Gondwana (Africa) and the formation of Pangea.

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