Abstract

The mechanical equilibrium of an orogenic wedge is maintained thanks to interactions between tectonic processes and surface processes. To better constrain the influence of erosion and sedimentation on the evolution of orogens, we performed a series of analogue models based on the tapered wedge principle, varying the amounts of erosion and sedimentation. The models develop by frontal accretion in the foreland basin and by simple underthrusting and subsequent underplating in the hinterland. The variations in rates of erosion and sedimentation strongly modify the extent, the morphology, the structures, the timing of development and the material paths in the different models. Under certain conditions, entire structural units can be formed and subsequently eroded out of the geological record, leading to important underestimations when restoring sections. Particles located in the converging lower-plate or in the upper-plate show complex uplift paths related to tectonic stages. The correlation between models and three Alpine tectonic cross-sections emphasizes the role of erosion and sedimentation on the dynamics and development of the orogen and adjacent Molasse basin. Along strike changes in the present structure of the orogen could be explained in part by differences in surface processes.

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