Gravitational deformation and inherited structural control on slope morphology in the subduction zone of north-central Chile (ca. 29–33°S)

Juan Becerra, César Arriagada, Eduardo Contreras-Reyes, Sebastián Bascuñan, Gregory P. De Pascale, Christian Reichert, Juan Díaz-Naveas, Natalia Cornejo

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11 Scopus citations


Subduction zones provide direct insight into plate boundary deformation and by studying these areas we better understand tectonic processes and variability over time. We studied the structure of the offshore subduction zone system of the Pampean flat-slab segment (ca. 29–33°S) of the Chilean margin using seismic and bathymetric constraints. Here, we related and analysed the structural styles of the offshore and onshore western fore-arc. Overlying the acoustic top of the continental basement, two syn-extensional seismic sequences were recognised and correlated with onshore geological units and the Valparaíso Forearc Basin seismic sequences: (SII) Pliocene-Pleistocene and (SI) Miocene-Pliocene (Late Cretaceous (?) to Miocene-Pliocene) syn-extensional sequences. These sequences are separated by an unconformity (i.e. Valparaíso Unconformity). Seismic reflection data reveal that the eastward dipping extensional system (EI) recognised at the upper slope can be extended to the middle slope and controlled the accumulation of the older seismic package (SI). The westward dipping extensional system (EII) is essentially restricted to the middle slope. Here, EII cuts the eastward dipping extensional system (EI), preferentially parallel to the inclination of the older sequences (SI), and controlled a series of middle slope basins which are filled by the Pliocene-Pleistocene seismic sequence (SII). At the upper slope and in the western Coastal Cordillera, the SII sequence is controlled by eastward dipping faults (EII) which are the local reactivation of older extensional faults (EI). The tectonic boundary between the middle (eastern outermost forearc block) and upper continental slope (western coastal block) is a prominent system of trenchward dipping normal fault scarps (ca. 1 km offset) that resemble a major trenchward dipping extensional fault system. This prominent structural feature can be readily detected along the Chilean erosive margin as well as the two extensional sets (EI and EII). Evidence of slumping, thrusting, reactivated faults and mass transport deposits, were recognised in the slope domain and locally restricted to some eastern dipping faults. These features could be related to gravitational effects or slope deformation due to coseismic deformation. The regional inclination of the pre-Pliocene sequences favoured the gravitational collapse of the outermost forearc block. We propose that the structural configuration of the study area is dominantly controlled by tectonic erosion as well as the uplift of the Coastal Cordillera, which is partially controlled by pre-Pliocene architecture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)798-815
Number of pages18
JournalBasin Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017


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