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Multiple levels of frontal ramps and detachment flats accommodate tectonic shortening in contrasting deformation styles at different levels in a mechanically hetero geneous stratigraphic succession in a foreland thrust belt. The late Paleozoic Appalachian thrust belt in Alabama exhibits a balance of shortening in contrasting deformation styles at different stratigraphic levels. The regional décollement is in a weak unit (Cambrian shale) near the base of the Paleozoic succession above Precambrian crystalline basement rocks. Basement faults, now beneath the décollement, controlled the sedimentary thickness of the Cambrian shale and the location of high-amplitude frontal ramps of the regional stiff layer (Cambrian-Ordovician massive carbonate); shortening in a mushwad (ductile duplex) from thick Cambrian shale is balanced by translation of the regional stiff layer at a high-amplitude frontal ramp above a basement fault. A trailing, high-amplitude, brittle duplex of the regional stiff layer has a floor on the regional décollement and a roof that is also the floor of an upper-level, lower-amplitude, brittle duplex. The roof of the upper-level brittle duplex is a diffuse ductile detachment below an upper-level mushwad, with which parts of the brittle duplex are imbricated. The basal detachment of the upper-level mushwad changes along strike into a frontal ramp at a location coincident with a sedimentary facies change in the weak shale unit that hosts the mushwad. The roof of the upper-level mushwad is a brittle massive sandstone. Shortening on the regional décollement is balanced successively upward through contrasting tectonic styles in successive mechanically contrasting stratigraphic units.

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