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The current structure and geomorphology of the Iberian peninsula are, for the most part, a direct consequence of Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonic activity. North of the Betic Cordillera, in its foreland, this post-Palaeozoic tectonic evolution and the resulting Alpine structure is rather complex compared to other European foreland areas. This is a consequence of the Iberian peninsula being a small continental lithospheric plate, which, after the Variscan orogeny, moved relatively independently of its two great neighbours, the European and African plates. The existence of two plate boundaries, following the King’s trough–Azores–Biscay rise–north Spanish trough in the north and the Azores–Gibraltar line in the south, and the relatively small size of the Iberian plate, explain why so much tectonic activity was transmitted to the interior of the Iberian peninsula, especially during Alpine collision.

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