The Apennines belt of Italy undergoes a northeast-trending extension at a rate of a few millimeters per year that generates moderate to large normal-faulting earthquakes. In this paper, we show that seismicity, large earthquakes, strong gas emission, and belt topography all correlate with a broad, low Vp anomaly in the uppermost mantle. We propose that a thermal/fluid anomaly in the mantle, associated with sub-lithospheric mantle replacement after delamination of the Adria lithosphere, supports the topography of the belt and drives the extensional tectonics. The mantle anomaly is likely caused by deep fluids coming from the dehydration of the material subducted during the Europe-Adria collision and the delamination of Adria. Beneath the belt, CO2-rich fluids are accumulated and occasionally discharged during large normal faulting earthquakes. After the replacement of sub-lithospheric mantle, the temperature at the base of the crust increases causing crustal stretching, anatexis, and strong degassing.

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