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Formation of arcuate orogenic belts in the western Mediterranean region

By
Gideon Rosenbaum
Gideon Rosenbaum
Australian Crustal Research Centre, School of Geosciences, Monash University, P.O. Box 28E, Melbourne, Victoria 3800, Australia
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Gordon S Lister
Gordon S Lister
Australian Crustal Research Centre, School of Geosciences, Monash University, P.O. Box 28E, Melbourne, Victoria 3800, Australia
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Published:
January 01, 2004

The Alpine orogen in the western Mediterranean region, consisting of the Rif-Betic belt and the Apennine-Calabrian-Maghrebide belt, is a classic example of an arcuate orogen. It contains fragments of Cretaceous to Oligocene high-pressure/low-temperature (HP/LT) rocks, which were exhumed and dispersed during post-Oligocene extensional deformation and are presently exposed in the soles of metamorphic core complexes. In this paper, we illustrate that the arcuate shape of the orogenic belt was attained during extensional destruction of the earlier HP/LT belt, driven by subduction rollback in a direction oblique or orthogonal to the direction of convergence. Since the Oligocene, sub-duction of Mesozoic oceanic lithosphere, accompanied by rollback of the subducting slab, led to progressive bending and episodic tearing of the slab. This process resulted in the formation of several slab segments presently recognized in tomographic images beneath the Alboran Sea, North Africa and Italy. The remnant slabs can account for nearly all the volume of oceanic domains that existed in the western Mediterranean during the Oligocene. Subduction rollback led to extension in the overriding plate and to the opening of backarc basins. Extensional tectonism affected the original, relatively non-arcuate HP/LT belt. Allochthonous fragments of the original belt (e.g., Alpine Corsica, Calabria, and the Internal Betic) rotated and drifted as independent units until they were accreted in an arcuate fashion into the continental paleomargins of Africa, Iberia, and Adria. Therefore, the present exposures of HP/LT metamorphic rocks in the western Mediterranean region do not represent sites of continental collisions between major large-scale tectonic plates.

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GSA Special Papers

Orogenic curvature: Integrating paleomagnetic and structural analyses

Aviva J. Sussman
Aviva J. Sussman
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Arlo B. Weil
Arlo B. Weil
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Geological Society of America
Volume
383
ISBN print:
9780813723839
Publication date:
January 01, 2004

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