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The field guides in chapters 1–5 of this volume were originally written to accompany the field trips run in conjunction with the Backbone of the Americas Meeting that took place 3–7 April 2006, in Mendoza, Argentina. The conference was sponsored by the Geological Society of America (GSA) and the Asociación Geológica Argentina (AGA) in collaboration with the Chilean Geologic Society. The meeting was organized around three important processes affecting the western margin and cordilleras of the Americas—ridge collision, shallowing and steepening subduction zones, and plateau and orogenic uplift. Some 400 participants from 20 countries along the western margin of the Americas and elsewhere attended the meeting. A report of the meeting can be found in the January 2007 issue of GSA Today (Kay and Ramos, 2007).

The five field guides from the pre-meeting, intra-meeting, and post-meeting field trips in this volume accompany the meeting themes. General trip locations are shown in the map and topographic image in Figure 1. The trip in chapter 1 to southern Patagonia highlights the ridge-trench collision theme; the trips in chapters 2–4 examine issues related to shallowing subduction zones in the south-central Andes; and the trip in chapter 5 highlights uplift of the Puna plateau in the context of a steepening subduction zone and lithospheric delamination.

Chapter 1, “Ridge-trench collision—The southern Patagonian Cordillera east of the Chilean Triple Junction,” is the guide for premeeting field trip 401 to Patagonia, which was organized to highlight the ridge collision theme. This five-day field guide by Matthew Gorring

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