A new analysis of Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Leg 84 data demonstrates that the dominant process controlling the Guatemala margin tectonic evolution since ca. 25 Ma is subduction-erosion. Data from benthic foraminifera, assemblages from upper-slope DSDP Sites 568, 569, and 570 indicate long-term, progressive subsidence from upper to middle bathyal depths (600–1000 m) ca. 19 Ma to modern abyssal depths (>2000 m). Rapid subsidence migrated landward starting at the Oligocene-Miocene boundary time under the current middle slope, where it increased sharply ca. 19 Ma, reached the current upper slope by ca. 15 Ma, and arrived at the uppermost slope ca. 2 Ma. Subsidence indicates crustal thinning by basal tectonic erosion of mass from the underside of the upper plate. Under the assumption that, in the Miocene, the morphology of the forearc was similar to that of today, landward migration of the trench was at a rate of 0.8–0.9 km/m.y. This linear rate corresponds to a tectonic erosion rate of the submerged forearc of 11.3–13.1 km3·m.y.−1·km−1. The evolution of arc magmatism and superfast spreading at the East Pacific Rise since early Miocene time may have caused slab shallowing and tectonic erosion that readjusted the forearc geometry.

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