Abstract

Subduction initiation at passive margins plays a central role in the plate tectonics theory. However, the process by which a passive margin becomes active is not well understood. In this paper we use the southwest Iberia margin (SIM) in the Atlantic Ocean to study the process of passive margin reactivation. Currently there are two tectonic mechanisms operating in the SIM: migration of the Gibraltar Arc and Africa-Eurasia convergence. Based on a new tectonic map, we propose that a new subduction zone is forming at the SIM as a result of both propagation of compressive stresses from the Gibraltar Arc and stresses related to the large-scale Africa-Eurasia convergence. The Gibraltar Arc and the SIM appear to be connected and have the potential to develop into a new eastern Atlantic subduction system. Our work suggests that the formation of new subduction zones in Atlantic-type oceans may not require the spontaneous foundering of its passive margins. Instead, subduction can be seen as an invasive process that propagates from ocean to ocean.

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