Several decades of field, geophysical, analogue, and numerical modeling investigations have enabled documentation of the wide range of tectonic transport processes in accretionary wedges, which constitute some of the most dynamic plate boundary environments on Earth. Active convergent margins can exhibit basal accretion (via underplating) leading to the formation of variably thick duplex structures or tectonic erosion, the latter known to lead to the consumption of the previously accreted material and eventually the forearc continental crust. We herein review natural examples of actively underplating systems (with a focus on circum-Pacific settings) as well as field examples highlighting internal wedge dynamics recorded by fossil accretionary systems. Duplex formation in deep paleo–accretionary systems is known to leave in the rock record (1) diagnostic macro- and microscopic deformation patterns as well as (2) large-scale geochronological characteristics such as the downstepping of deformation and metamorphic ages. Zircon detrital ages have also proved to be a powerful approach to deciphering tectonic transport in ancient active margins. Yet, fundamental questions remain in order to understand the interplay of forces at the origin of mass transfer and crustal recycling in deep accretionary systems. We address these questions by presenting a suite of two-dimensional thermo-mechanical experiments that enable unravelling the mass-flow pathways and the long-term distribution of stresses along and above the subduction interface as well as investigating the importance of parameters such as fluids and slab roughness. These results suggest the dynamical instability of fluid-bearing accretionary systems causes either an episodic or a periodic character of subduction erosion and accretion processes as well as their topographic expression. The instability can be partly deciphered through metamorphic and strain records, thus explaining the relative scarcity of paleo–accretionary systems worldwide despite the tremendous amounts of material buried by the subduction process over time scales of tens or hundreds of millions of years. We finally stress that the understanding of the physical processes at the origin of underplating processes as well as the forearc topographic response paves the way for refining our vision of long-term plate-interface coupling as well as the rheological behavior of the seismogenic zone in active subduction settings.

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