Abstract

Multichannel deep seismic reflection data from the subduction zone of western Canada delineate the wedge of accereted sediments and the principal terranes (Crescent, Pacific Rim, and Wrangellia) that form the convergent margin. The top of the igneous oceanic crust is defined by subhorizontal reflections extending at least 100 km landward of the deformation front. Upon incorporation into the accretionary wedge, the clearly defined stratigraphy of the incoming oceanic sedimentary section is destroyed over a distance of about 10 km. Initially, an unreflective zone, which correlates well with maximum fluid expulsion, is formed. Farther landward, a predominantly landward-dipping reflectivity exists. A number of reflections are thrust faults, which appear to merge at depth with the subhorizontal reflections, but most have another origin. These reflections may be related to the movement of fluids generated by the compaction of sediments or possibly by the dehydration of the subducting plate. They are strongest in a region of depressed seismic velocities beneath the continental slope, where an analysis of reflection amplitude with offset implies that a high Poisson's ratio exists; this is consistent with the presence of elevated pore pressures. Thus, pore pressure variations associated with the migration of fluids may be the cause of much of the reflectivity within the accreted wedge, although the precipitation of minerals from rising fluids could also be important. Evidence from the seismic data also indicates that fluids from the accretionary prism are being expelled into the sediments of the overlying Tofino basin. A number of anomalously strong reflections and disruption of the horizontally stratified sediments within the lower levels of the basin probably represent fluids that migrated upward from the accreted wedge and were trapped against impermeable barriers created through the deposition of sediments on the continental slope and in the basin.

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