Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 www.elsevier.

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Crustal dynamics and active fault mechanics during subduction erosion. Application of frictional wedge analysis on to the North Chilean Forearc
J. Adam *,1, C.-D. Reuther
Geologisch-Pala ¨ ontologisches Institut und Museum, Universita ¨ t Hamburg, Bundesstrasse 55, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany Received 23 August 1999; accepted for publication 13 February 2000

Abstract The forearc region of the non-accreting South American Plate margin in northern Chile is characterised by subduction erosion and regional uplift. Neotectonic deformation structures reflect simultaneous extensional and contractional fault kinematics. In the outer forearc, where the brittle crust directly overlies the subducting Nazca Plate, the stress regime changes from extension in the upper part to compression at the base of the forearc wedge as seen in neotectonic surface structures and seismic data. In the inner forearc, surface structures indicate a compressional stress regime also affecting the western rim of the magmatic arc. This stress regime is limited to a brittle crustal wedge segment which overlies the ductile part of the inner forearc lithosphere. The shape of the two brittle forearc wedges at the leading edge of the South American Plate is controlled by exogenetic surface processes, internal deformation processes, contemporaneous basal tectonic erosion and underplating. Mechanical parameter sets controlling and reflecting the recent tectonic processes and geometrical wedge segmentation within the forearc system are evaluated and applied to general frictional wedge models. The states of stress within the crustal wedges are controlled by spatial variations of the basal mechanical parameters in the down-dip direction of the forearc wedge base. The new models illustrate the fundamental kinematics and dynamic processes of ‘Coulomb-type’ basal tectonic erosion and mass transfer modes along active non-accretive convergent margins. The frictional wedge models explain the dynamics of the simultaneous and contrary deformation processes affecting the forearc crust at the North Chilean convergent margin shaped by active basal tectonic erosion. © 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: basal tectonic erosion; forearc wedge dynamics; frictional wedge analysis; mass transfer; neotectonics; non-accretive margin

1. Introduction The North Chilean segment of the South American Plate boundary is a non-accretive margin characterised by subduction erosion ( Kulm
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +49-331-288-1317; fax: +49-331-288-1370. E-mail address: jogi@gfz-potsdam.de (J. Adam) 1 Present address: GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Telegrafenberg, D-14473 Potsdam, Germany.

et al., 1977; Huene and Lallemand, 1990; Huene and Scholl, 1991). Subduction erosion of the continental crust at the leading edge of the South American Plate was first considered by Rutland (1971) to explain the present position of the extinct Mesozoic magmatic arc along the Chilean coast. Previous magmatic arcs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous have been situated in the present forearc setting since Oligocene times. The complex configuration of the active margin and structure of the forearc lithosphere are consequences of

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J. Adam, C.-D. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325

about 200 km eastward migration of the magmatic arc and the related forearc/backarc system since Jurassic times (Scheuber and Reutter, 1992; Scheuber et al., 1994). Thus, neotectonic faults and crustal discontinuities are strongly influenced by pre-existing structures. The present forearc is subdivided into an inner and an outer domain separated by the N–S-trending Atacama fault system. Neotectonic surface and offshore structures are extensional in the outer forearc (Buddin et al., 1993; Reichert and CINCA Study Group, 1996). However, within the lower part of the outer forearc lithosphere, seismological investigations indicate compressional deformation

(Delouis et al., 1996). The inner forearc domain is compressional (Jolley et al., 1990; Buddin et al., 1993). Each geodynamic model is faced with the problem of the contrasting and contemporaneous fault kinematics. According to Armijo and Thiele (1990), the formation of extensional surface structures in the outer forearc region, e.g. on the Mejillones Peninsula is related to the Coastal Escarpment (Fig. 1). They interpret this asymmetric west-dipping normal fault system of crustal scale as a secondary effect of a dip variation at the subduction interface. This bend within the subducting plate, however, was not confirmed by later geophysical data (Comte et al., 1992).

Fig. 1. Main structural features and upper crustal stresses deduced from neotectonic faults in the North Chilean forearc region between 22°S and 24°S ( location of Rio Salado area=RS, Talabre Thrust=TT, Quebrada Diabolo=QD).

Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 299 Wdowinski et al. 1997.. which they identify as the trench. Wdowinski and O’Connell (1991) assume that the apex of the asthenospheric wedge and the edge of the lithosphere are at the same horizontal position. 1978. 1998). internal deformation. 1980.. 1988). To exceed the basal shear strength and to initiate basal displacement. fault scarps. (1989) and Wdowinski and O’Connell (1991) attributed the extension in the forearc to the shear forces acting along the base of the lithospheric wedge and derive the deformation processes within the forearc from a flow model on a plate-tectonic scale. 1983. which is the main focus of our investigations on a more regional scale. 1984. Lallemand and Le Pichon.. 1996. 1980. Huene and Culotta. Huene and Lallemand (1990) distinguish between frontal subduction erosion at the toe of the upper plate and basal subduction erosion along the base of the .-D. plate-tectonic forces resulting from frictional resistance at the subduction interface and/or from gravitational forces generated by orogenic features. Along the North Chilean non-accretive margin. on to the brittle continental crust of an entire non-accretive forearc prism. 1994) implies that sediment accretion and accretionary wedge formation played no or only a minor role in the configuration of this segment of the plate margin. subduction erosion directly affects the framework rock at the toe of the upper plate. A change of one or more of these factors generates internal deformation of the wedge caused by internal stress release to regain or to maintain 2. We develop a general model that explains the mechanics and mass transfer modes of high-friction basal subduction erosion along a non-accretive active margin.g. 1984. To investigate the mechanics of basal tectonic erosion and recent deformation processes between the non-accreting North Chilean margin and the magmatic arc. The frictional wedge models demonstrate how spatial variations of the basal mechanical parameters in down-dip direction of the wedge base control the contrasting crustal stresses and neotectonic deformation processes. the wedge has to attain a critical taper (Chapple.. 1985. 1977. Huene et al.. 1980. horst-andgraben structures. 1994). An inferred mechanism for basal erosion is the upward migration of water into fractures along the base of the upper plate (Marauchi and Ludwig.J.. Adam. We apply the critical taper analysis (e. C. we extended the critical taper analysis on to framework forearc-wedge blocks (Reuther and Adam.. The strong trench retreat (200 km since the Jurassic. But their model does not separate the brittle from the ductile part of the forearc crust and does not cover the region between the trench and the tip of the asthenospheric wedge. In the critically tapered wedge the basal shear stresses are balanced by wedge internal stresses on the verge of shear failure. the fluids induce hydrofracturing that softens the base of the upper plate producing clasts and slivers forming a melange with subducting sediments. In this model. Dahlen et al. originally developed to analyse the mechanics of accretionary wedges and fold-andthrust belts. 1987). seamounts and ridges. surface erosion and tectonic erosion. Coulomb-wedge modelling).g. Lallemand et al. Davis and Suppe. Scholl et al. orogenic wedges and fold-and-thrust wedges) develop in convergent settings by compressional deformation of rock material until they exceed the shear strength along a basal detachment. The crustal stresses are generated by gravitational forces caused by the topographic gradient. upper plate — probable causes of frontal erosion are (a) the subduction of an oceanic plate with an intense topography. Becoming overpressured. sedimentation. 1983. The shape of a crustal wedge is controlled by various factors such as frontal or basal accretion of rock material. Dahlen and Suppe. Davis et al. 1989. General concepts Subduction erosion Subduction erosion has been recognised in various regions along the convergent margins of the Pacific (e.g.. e. Dahlen. Scheuber et al. Crustal wedge dynamics In general crustal wedges (accretionary wedges. and (b) the fundamental reconfiguration of the margin due to a variation of accretionary processes through time.. Karig et al.

3.300 J. 1997).. 2). 1995). Cohesion can be neglected. Adam. in the inner forearc segment. 1984).-D. internal lithospheric stacking of lower crust segments leads to the initial formation of the external fold-and-thrust belt (Roeder and Chamberlain. the compression in the overriding plate arises from shear traction acting on the base of the lithosphere toward the asthenospheric wedge tip from both directions. Forearc wedge formation and plate-tectonic setting To explain the origin of the deformation processes within the brittle part of the forearc. brittle crustal wedges can be modelled following the critical taper theory for non-cohesive wedges (Dahlen. 1991). The pro-wedge is also affected by plate-tectonic stresses transmitted from the subducting Nazca Plate on to the overriding South American Plate due to high frictional resistance between the plates (Fig. The thickened crust of the orogenic plateau of the North-Central Andes. For northern Chile. 2): pro-wedge. dynamic processes of large. between 18°S and 24°S. Between the trench and the asthenospheric wedge tip. The plateau-induced gravitational forces increase the contraction in the frictional-based bounding wedges and favour west-verging thrust formation in the pro-wedge and east-verging thrusts in the retro-wedge. As proposed in the model of Wdowinski and O’Connell (1991). On the cratonic side. Additionally. the MAT ramps into the upper crust and forms an intracrustal detachment beneath the Subandean belt. the lithosphere is sheared by the subducting Nazca Plate and between the asthenospheric wedge tip and the Brazilian shield. Upper crustal wedge systems like accretionary prisms and foldand-thrust belts are formed under brittle conditions and exhibit a plastic or Coulomb-type rheology. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 stability. Thus. 2). According to the mechanical model of doubly vergent compressional orogens by Willett et al. The mode of stress release and strain accommodation is governed by the depth-dependent rheology within the wedge. The forearc wedges are bounded at the top by the present-day topographic slope. orogenic plateau and retro-wedge. 1993). On a regional scale. Forearc wedge configuration Based on field observations and geophysical data. lithospheric thinning. 4. This is confirmed by field observations of west-verging neotectonic forethrusts in the inner forearc and by east-verging main thrusts in the Eastern Cordillera and the Subandean fold-and-thrust belt. The brittle outer . translithospheric shear zones like the Main Andean Thrust (MAT ). Lithospheric shear zones decouple the upper crust from the lower lithosphere affected by ductile deformation processes and are marked by an abrupt decrease of crustal shear strength. is in balance with the far-field plate-tectonic compressional forces (Froidevaux and Isacks. provide crustal thickening and lithospheric stacking of crustal and upper mantle segments. Gravitational forces resulting from plateau build-up act on the bounding pro-wedge and retro-wedge systems ( Willett et al.. magmatic addition. (ICD. C. a shear zone segment ramps into the upper crust and forms an intracrustal detachment. since it is insignificant compared with the increasing gravitational stresses with depth and the tectonic stresses that affect the wedge within a convergent setting. (1993). we briefly discuss the lithospheric structure and the forces acting on the North-Central Andean subduction system. Probably. upper mantle hydration and tectonic underplating (Allmendinger et al. we correlate the contrasting deformation processes within the framework rock of the NorthChilean forearc region with the mechanical behaviour of two distinct frictional forearc wedges in different dynamic states of stress — an outer forearc wedge and an inner forearc wedge. estimated plate coupling extends to depths of about 50 km ( Tichelaar and Ruff. formed by horizontal shortening of the thermally softened lithosphere. the North Chilean Plate margin can be divided into three large lithospheric units ( Fig. 1984). the base of the lithosphere is sheared by basal drag resulting from asthenospheric flow within the continental mantle. Fig.

orogenic plateau and retro-wedge system is indicated by white arrows. S=singularity. During subduction erosion the active subduction fault lies within the upper plate. Dashed bold lines=lithospheric shear zones. MAT=Main Andean Thrust after Roeder and Chamberlain (1995). (1993) and the lithospheric viscous flow model for the Andes from Wdowinski and O’Connell (1991). Schematic mechanical model and lithospheric wedge configuration of the North-Central Andean subduction system from the Nasca Plate to the Brazilian shield (adopted after the mechanical model of doubly vergent compressional orogenes by Willett et al. The dashed segment of the subduction zone corresponds to the inactive subduction interface between the oceanic and continental crust. black arrow=active underplating. the dotted lines refer to maximum stress trajectories within the upper crust. horizontal hatched area=ductile upper crust. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 Fig. C. The model illustrates the interaction of plate-tectonic stresses resulting from active subduction and gravitationally induced tectonic stresses by the thickened orogenic lithosphere. ICD=intracrustal detachment. Stress transmission within the pro-wedge. Adam. 301 .J.-D. vertical hatched area=rheological buffer. 2.

ICD=intracrustal detachment. 1992) for this upper crustal segment of the inner forearc lithosphere brittle behavior can be expected. Adam. This rheological buffer transmits gravitationally induced compressional stresses on to the brittle. Thus. in this study. In general. for the outer forearc wedge and the upper crustal inner forearc wedge segment. DeMets et al. inner forearc wedge.. seismological (Comte et al. 3. the Mejillones–Atacama section is chosen as an example for the application of the 2D critical taper approach. inner forearc wedge ends at the thermally weakened magmatic arc. 1983).. 1993. thermally driven recrystallisation (power law creep rheology) is not to be expected until a depth of 30–40 km which additionally is confirmed by the presence of interplate and intraplate crustal seismicity (Comte et al. which are generated by the high-elevated Altiplano/Puna plateau (Fig. 1999) and crustal seismicity (Comte et al. 1994). which forms a rheological buffer acting like an ‘intervertebral disk’ between the forearc wedge and the orogenic plateau. 1999). White arrows=active compressional and extensional crustal stresses. The crustal wedge overlaying the intracrustal detachment is not affected by the upward deflection of the isotherms in the thickened crust of the orogenic plateau due to the presence of an astenospheric wedge ( Wdowinski and Bock. Therefore in the outer forearc wedge. the critical taper analysis following the Coulomb– Navier failure law for brittle deformation (Paterson. 2 and 3). The brittle. 1978) or frictional sliding (Byerlee. 2). 1990) this downward shift of the isotherms is observable in the outer forearc wedge segment of northern Chile as confirmed by surface heat-flow density data and 2D thermal modelling (Springer. Fig. high subduction speeds of cold oceanic plates cause a significant downward shift of the isotherms in the forearc segment of the overriding upper plate (Honda and Uyeda. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 forearc wedge is bounded along its base by the subduction interface. C. Wigger et al. Minster and Jordan. the base of the brittle inner forearc wedge is marked by an intracrustal discontinuity acting as intracrustal detachment (Figs. Springer 1999). Due to the high convergence rate of the Nazca Plate (about 9 cm/year. 1992). We analyse the deformation structures observed at the surface for the brittle subwedge overlying a midcrustal discontinuity at depths between 15 km and 25 km (Fig. 1978. The outer forearc wedge ends at the Atacama Fault system and is backstopped by the inner forearc wedge.. As shown by thermal modelling (Springer. vertical hatched=underthrusting of erosional debris in deformation or melange zone.b.302 J. Geological (Scheuber and Reutter. 1994a. LCD=lower crustal detachment. To investigate the fundamental processes of basal tectonic erosion at non-accreting active margins. Forearc wedge configuration of the North-Chilean trench-arc system and states of active crustal stresses obtained from neotectonic and seismological data.. . 3) represented by a low-velocity zone in interpreted seismic sections between Tocopilla and Chuquicamata/ Calama (Schmitz. oblique hatched=underplating of underthrusted material in basal duplex zone. 1992). 1978) can be applied. The inner forearc wedge shows compressional neotectonic deformations and extends from the Atacama fault zone to the western margin of the active magmatic arc..-D.

In the frontal part of the outer forearc wedge. Carboniferous to Permotriassic magmatic and sedimentary rocks. Neotectonic and active surface structures between the Chile trench and the Atacama fault zone reflect extensional processes. As in the outer forearc wedge the crustal structures of the inner forearc wedge was also created by the Mid-Cretaceous and Late Cretaceous– Paleogene arc systems. inner trench slope down into the trench (Reichert and CINCA Study Group.21°S and 25. The outer forearc wedge consists entirely of framework rock and includes palaeozoic igneous. mafic to felsic dikes. This fault geometry indicates a subhorizontal s axis (minimum principal stress) 3 in an E–W direction ( Figs. Bathymetric data of Schweller et al. 2. Wedge geometry and regional geological setting The outer forearc wedge extends over an average distance of 120 km from the trench axis in the west to the Atacama fault zone in the east (Figs. Adam. After a pronounced change within the offshore topography about 50 km landwards of the trench.. Buddin et al. Buddin et al. Quaternary coastal uplift of the Mejillones Peninsula is indicated by the existence of high-level regressive terraces and shorelines (Armijo and Thiele. and GPS data ( Klotz et al. Scheuber et al. 1990). The entire succession of the onshore outer forearc is cut by neotectonic Wand E-dipping normal faults and large N–S-trending tensile fissures (Armijo and Thiele. The inner forearc domain and the western margin of the active magmatic arc are characterised by compressional deformations. granodiorites. tuffs and lavas associated with a Jurassic–Early Cretaceous magmatic arc system (Scheuber and Reutter. the surface continues onshore into the western slope of the Coastal Cordillera with a more gentle inclination of a=3. The inner forearc wedge extends over a distance of 210 km and is situated between the Atacama Fault and the western margin of the active magmatic arc (Figs. 1992. 3). 1978). (1993) describe thick-skinned thrust systems in the Pre-Cordillera with localised thin-skinned tectonics controlled by detachment horizons along evapo- .01°S demonstrate inner trench slope inclinations of about a=7° characterising the toe of the outer forearc wedge. Based on linear regression analyses of topographic data across the Precordillera and the Salar de Atacama basin. 1988. metamorphic and folded sedimentary rocks of the Pre-Andean basement which is well exposed in the Coastal Cordillera and on the Mejillones Peninsula.. 1989). 1990. 1994). at depths between 20 and 30 km beneath the coastal area. the average surface slope is a=1°. lower to mid-Jurassic carbonates and Cretaceous to recent marine/continental sediments with intercalated evaporitic layers (Reutter et al. Scheuber et al. The outer forearc wedge is limited at the base by the subduction zone with an average dip of b=10° towards the East according to seismic data of Wigger et al. mid-Cretaceous granodiorites...-D. In the same region. 1978) is actually not significantly affecting the active state of stress and deformation processes in the overriding forearc crust. This slump material is trapped in horst-and-graben structures and is carried down into the subduction zone. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 303 1992). The wedge consists of lower Cretaceous volcanic rocks. (1994). 3) dips 7° to the east. uplifted Precambrian to Lower Palaeozoic metamorphic rocks. oblique convergence (Minster and Jordan. marine seismic investigations suggest extensive mass movements and block sliding along the steep.. The major part of the Coastal Cordillera consists of gabbros. 1996). marine carbonates and calcareous sandstones (Ferraris and Di Biase. 5. The base of the brittle inner forearc wedge (ICD in Fig.5°W characterising the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge. 1994) providing potential detachment horizons. 1993).J. 1999) indicate that in this segment of the Chile trench. 1996) indicating a subhorizontal s axis (maximum prin1 cipal stress) slightly inclined to the West (Fig.. 1 and 3). 1992. 1 and 3). C. (1981) at latitudes 22. 1 and 3). earthquake focal mechanisms confirm thrust faulting (Delouis et al. Further forearc rocks are Lower Cretaceous and Cenozoic continental clastic rocks. Scheuber and Reutter. intracrustal discontinuity and ICD in Fig. The western rim of the active magmatic arc is dominated by Upper Miocene to Pleistocene ignimbrites and Neogene to recent andesites and dacites (De Silva.

1). This N–S-trending thrust fault displaces the 8-m-thick Talabre ignimbrite (2. (d) Low-angle west-verging and east-verging thrusts within the upper Miocene Sifon ignimbrite. 4. western margin of Salar de Atacama (QD in Fig. 1). (c) East-verging Talabre backthrust at the western margin of the magmatic arc with Tumisa volcano in the background. . Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 (a) (b) Fig. Quebrada de Diabolo.304 J.09 Ma) of 35 m exposed thickness (TT in Fig.17 Ma) and the underlying Atana ignimbrite (4. 1). C. (a) Fault escarpments on the southern Mejillones peninsula caused by post-Miocene and post-Pliocene extension of the outer forearc.-D. (b) Post-late Miocene west-verging folds and thrust faults in the Rio Salado Valley (RS in Fig. Adam.

C. 4. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 305 (c) (d) Fig. (continued ) . Adam.J.-D.

Figs. 6) characterises the active dynamic state of .. K-Ar biotite age.g. Fig. near Socaire within the Pliocene Tucu ´caro ignimbrite (3. Numerous extinct fault systems and crustal discontinuities within the forearc crust reflect the complex deformation history of the forearc region since Jurassic times and have potential for reactivation under the active stress regime. which underwent an Eocene to Oligocene compressional inversion. 4c.2 Ma. They explain the Atacama basin as a late Cretaceous halfgraben structure. Later compression is recognised in the Rio Salado Valley where west-verging faulted anticlines in upper Miocene strata are exposed ( Fig. No conducive explanations for the thrust faults in the inner forearc or for the recent contradictory deformation processes in the outer forearc have been proposed until now. loc. De Silva. Impressive low-angle west. 4a. loc. The critical taper equations (see the Appendix) describe the theoretical critical taper for crustal wedges (a+b ) required crit for basal wedge transport without internal wedge deformation. (2) Stresses acting at the rear end of the wedge. 1). Basal traction of the inner forearc wedge results from the shear resistance along the intracrustal detachment (intracrustal detachment. In the literature. Ramı rez ´ and Gardeweg. The wedge shape is controlled by the balance of various geological processes. In the critically tapered state. 1982) east-verging thrusts and pop-up structures are exposed. The active compressional stage of the inner forearc is expressed in east-verging and west-verging thrusts affecting Pliocene and Quaternary deposits at the western margin of the Salar de Atacama (Jolley et al. we apply the critical taper theory for non-cohesive Coulomb wedges by Dahlen (1984). C. the east-verging compressional faults are considered as forethrusts and the west-verging faults as backthrusts. Compressional deformation also affects the western margin of the active magmatic arc. 5). The internal and basal tectonic stresses of the forearc wedges result from the internal shear strength of the wedge material. (2) Stresses at the rear end of the forearc wedge system are caused by gravitationally induced stresses of the orogenic plateau.and eastverging thrusts are exposed within the upper Miocene Sifon ignimbrite at the western margin of the Salar de Atacama in the Quebrada de Diabolo area ( Fig. Adam. Beneath the Tumisa volcano. the frictional coupling of the convergent plates and the gravitationally induced crustal stresses of the thickened continental crust. The comparison of this required critical taper value with the actual wedge geometry ( Fig. (3) Wedge geometry. internal deformation. Moreover. in the Quebrada So ´ ncor the 2. Basal traction of the outer forearc wedge results from the shear resistance along the subduction interface. Application of critical taper analysis to the erosive North-Chilean forearc To explain the mechanics. Regarding the brittle forearc crust we have to consider different basal conditions for the inner and outer forearc wedges.35) old Talabre ignimbrite ( K-Ar age obtained from multiple determinations. Fig. the critical taper will be influenced by variation of internal mechanical conditions of the Coulomb wedge. e.306 J. an equilibrium between three main elements exists (Fig. 5): (1) Basal traction of the compressive wedge.-D. 2): (1) Basal traction of the compressive wedge. 5). 6. Within the brittle crust. Thus. Fig. exogenetic surface processes. (1991). 1). 1990). The critical taper models describe the dynamic relations between the wedge geometry and the acting stresses within the wedges (Fig. 1). the active state of stress and the dynamic evolution of the described forearc-wedge system. 1989) is thrusted to the east (Fig. these stresses are transmitted by the Western Cordillera/magmatic arc (rheological buffer. the wedge deformation is balanced between internal shear failure and basal frictional sliding (Coulomb rheology). 2 and 3). Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 ritic layers.03 Ma (±0. Fig. 4b. Structure and seismic stratigraphy of the Salar de Atacama basin were examined by Macellari et al. Within a critical wedge. basal subduction erosion and underplating. (3) Wedge geometry. loc. the three model elements are determined by the regional geodynamic and plate-tectonic setting ( Fig.

Eq. . C. Crans and Mandl. the forearc wedge controlling internal stresses and the kinematics of active deformation structures (Adam. 7a–d. Adam. Additionally to the mathematical solution (Fig. 5. 1996). Therefore the limiting states of stress (effective normal stress sn and shear stress t) can be obtained for any point (sn . 8a–d.-D. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 307 Fig. Long-term basal erosion only occurs in high frictional wedges on the verge of their existence limit (no contrast between basal and internal shear strength. The Mohr circles (Fig. Small variations of basal friction can easily account for different deformation patterns. The pole has the useful property by which stresses determined by the second intersection with the Mohr circle of any line passing through the pole act on a plane oriented parallel to that line in physical space. (2) stresses at the rear end of the wedge. 7 in the Appendix). Table 1) of Dahlen (1984). that variations in style of deformation at active convergent margins are the consequence of the degree of frictional coupling between the overriding and subducting plates. 1980) the Mohr circles provide the actual arrangement and the sense of movement for the sets of active faults within the forearc wedge segments (Fig. governed by three main elements: (1) basal traction of the compressive wedge. Already Dahlen (1984) illustrates in a series of hypothetical wedge models. the applied mechanical boundary conditions control the depth-independent orientation of the active deformation structures. and (3) wedge geometry. accretion and imbricate thrusting and subduction erosion.J. 8a–d). strength ratio x=1. t ) at z z depth z within the wedge segments. 1984). illustrating the internal state of stress. Schematic cross-section of a critical non-cohesive crustal forearc wedge in an active subduction system (brittle part of the lithosphere). Using the pole construction method ( Terzaghi. Due to the self-similar wedge geometry. 1943. Additionally the required geometric and mechanical parameters for Critical Taper modelling are shown (modified after Dahlen.) give a graphical presentation of the wedge mechanics and fault kinematics of the brittle forearc wedges. sediment subduction without accretion. The succession of deformation processes from low to high friction in the hypothetical wedge consists of extension by normal faulting. we show the graphical solution of the critical wedge problem with Mohr stress circles presented by Lehner (1986).

g. as well as the dip of the direction of maximum principle stress s relative to the wedge base. the subduction fault. The critical wedge geometry. In this case the forethrust-related slip lines are rotating parallel to the wedge base. The precise location of the wedge internal detachment will be governed by any pre-existing structures and weakness zones (Dahlen. A further increase in the basal shear strength ( x>1) shifts the wedge beyond the existence limit. dashed bold lines. Schematic cross-section of the North-Chilean forearc-wedge system illustrating the relations between the present wedge geometry and basal mass transfer modes within the distinct forearc segments. e. 7a). LCD. whereas the set of slip lines with arcward mass transport (e. inactive or future faults (vertical exaggeration of factor 2). Adam. backthrusts) steepens (Fig. for any possible value of b only one corresponding a exists to generate a stable wedge geometry. Numbers in wedge segments refer to wedge-specific data sets in Table 1. The wedge material in the footwall of the newly formed detachment is fixed to the subducting oceanic crust and will be basally eroded and transported arcward. With the steepening s direction the set of 1 slip lines with trenchward mass transport (e. for a particular set of mechanical parameters. An increase in basal friction results in a decrease in contrast of basal and internal shear strength (x[ 1).308 J. newly formed lower crustal detachment in the outer forearc wedge. steepens simulta1 neously. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 Fig. If the contrast in shear strength disappears ( x= 1) within the stability diagram the former field for stable wedge geometries (a+b ) is reduced to a line (as shown in Fig. Therefore.-D. C. 6.g. forethrusts) rotates to a more wedge base parallel direction. ICD. 8a).g. intracrustal detachment separating the brittle inner forearc wedge from the lower crust. The forethrust-related set of slip lines paralleling the blocked wedge base will be preferred for any new detachment horizon. . The actual orientation of the maximum principle stress s controls the position of the sets of 1 slip lines (potential and active shear planes) in the wedge. 1984). Even high frictional wedges with minor contrast between internal and basal shear strength (x<1) are able to adjust the critical taper by internal deformation for continuous basal transport without basal erosion. basal wedge transport is stopped and a new detachment must be formed up in the wedge for subduction to continue.

The applied values for the internal pore fluid pressure ratio vary from l=0. Database and global parameters Our model parameters for northern Chile are presented in Table 1. the wedge cannot exist. and is characterised by: x=t /|t| with (0≤x≤1). requiring a change of geodynamic or external factors. Adam. 1992.4). which is expressed by the following inequality: m · (1−l )≤ m · (1−l). Critical taper models for the outer forearc wedge To model the contemporaneous but contrasting deformation processes in the outer forearc wedge a temporal variation of the basal conditions. These models only allow similar internal stress conditions and resulting deformation processes within one distinct time interval.y. Up to now all published values are considering submerged accretionary wedges (Lallemand et al. The ratio ( x ) and the related internal and basal pore fluid pressure ratios (l. normally the wedge strength will be modelled by the coefficients of internal and basal friction (m>m ) and fixed b basal and internal pore fluid pressure ratios (l=l =constant) (Dahlen and Suppe. 1994)..7 (angle of internal friction w=35° ) characterising a brittle continental crust in frictional equilibrium on pre-existing faults oriented favourably to the acting stress field. Invariant physical properties of our wedge models are summarised in the global parameter set. the present wedge geometry reflects the dynamically stable state and the mechanical properties .0) to weak ( x<0.J. Because this region was not affected by significant variations of geodynamic factors (e. 1996). C.6 (submerged wedge) to l=0..g. l=0. For the density of the framework rock we have chosen 2600 kg /m3 and for the density of the pore fluid 1030 kg /m3. To b b customise critical taper calculations it is usual to fix either the coefficients of internal/basal friction (m. b Because accretionary wedges and thrust belts are made of heterogeneous sedimentary sequences with varying mechanical properties. 1988. 1994) over the last 10 m. contrasting states of internal stress within the wedge are controlled by spatial variations of the basal mechanical parameters in the down-dip direction of the forearc wedge base despite temporal variations. The geodynamic and mechanical parameters differ significantly from the values in sedimentary accretionary complexes as the outer forearc wedge consists entirely of framework rock. Scheuber et al. b Roeder. The values used correspond to in situ determinations within the upper brittle crust at a depth of 8 km at the KTB borehole in Germany (Brudy et al. In the special case where b x>1. Adam. The resulting strength ratios describe different states of the wedge base from locked ( x=1.7) reflecting b a non-accretive forearc system made of prestructured framework rock. rate and direction of convergence. Therefore. l ) are summarised b as the wedge-specific parameter set in Table 1. for an active crustal wedge it is an important assumption that the internal wedge is stronger than its base. geological data and seismological data are given by the regional geology and structures. Continuous erosional mass transfer since Jurassic times is more easily achieved by a steadystate process with spatial variation of wedge dynamics than by multiple temporal variations. we apply m=0.42 (subaerial wedge with hydrostatic pore fluid pressure). the basal traction t exceeds the internal b shear strength t and a continuous detachment at the wedge base cannot develop.-D.. The geometrical data. as shown in the hypothetical wedge models from Dahlen (1984) is insufficient. Within active crustal wedges.8 (overpressured wedge). the ratio of the basal traction and internal strength controls wedge kinematics and dynamics. 1997). and arid climatic conditions prevailed at least since the Late Quaternary. l ). Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 309 7. In our Coulomb-wedge model. m ) or basal/internal pore fluid pressure ratios b (l. 8. For the coefficient of internal friction of the framework rock. we model the difference between internal and basal shear strength in crustal wedges by variation of the internal and basal pore fluid pressure ratios (l≤l ) and similar coefficients of b internal and basal friction (m=m =0. The basal pore fluid pressure ratio l will be b adjusted to model different strength ratios of the particular forearc wedges. In contrast to these accretive systems.

Z[ extensional stress regime. internal wedge base in SW Seismic activity.54 (intermediate) Underplating 12° (a =2° ) crit 13.7 (w=w =35° ) b 2600 kg /m3 1030 kg /m3 0.3° 40.4° (a =3. seismogenic window.6 (submerged ) 0. ‘stable’ 0.68 (strong) 0. ICD.7 (w=w =35° ) b 2600 kg/m3 1030 kg/m3 0.p./basal friction ( m=m ) b Density of frame work rock (d ) litho Density of pore fluid 0. intracrustal detachment.p.5° (a =3.-D.5° ) crit 16. Adam. : 0.5° 10° (subduction interface) 13.83 (overpressured) (l=l ) b 1. .35 (weak) ‘Detached’ 8° ( a = 1 ° ) crit 8. Coastal Scarp. entire wedge base above SW Z[: surface (Antofagasta quake 96)[Z: thrust faulting at 20–30 km depth Strong seismic coupling of subduction fault. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 Wedge specific parameter set Internal pore fluid pressure ratio (l) Basal pore fluid pressure ratio (l ) b Strength ratio base internal/ ( x ) 0. d base) 55° On verge of existence limit.4° Critical a SW. uplift of Coastal Range [Z: fore. seismic data Z[: locally at deformation front Basal tectonic erosion Z[: normal faults and fissures.3° Subcritical 0.8 0..83 (calculated by taper geometry) 0.5° 0° (wedge internal s.2° 35.7° 39. ramp angle (d ) b Backthrust-related s.49 (intermediate) Taper build up 10.77 0. C.310 Table 1 Summary of the geometric/geodynamic database.0° 7° (intracrustal discontinuity — ICD) 8° Inner forearc wedge Internal outer forearc wedge Geometry data set Surface length normal to trench Topographic slope (a) Basal dip ( b ) Actual taper (a+b ) Geological data set Stress regime near surface deduced from neotectonic structures Recent geodynamic processes [Z: thrusts.0 (no discrete wedge base) Basal erosion 17° (a =7.2° 14. submarine slumps Crustal thickening. s.4° ) crit 11.3° 19.8° 15.7° Critical + 7.and backthrusts. epicentres trace wedge base above ICD Global parameter set Coefficient of int. folds Crustal thickening Seismological data set Stress regime deduced from fault plane solution Seismological character of wedge base (SW-seismological window) Aseismic Aseismic subduction fault.9.7 (w=w =35° ) b 2600 kg /m3 1030 kg /m3 Hypothetical J.5° 210 km 1. global/wedge-specific parameter sets and results of critical taper analysis concerning the three modelled forearc wedge segmentsa Outer forearc wedge Toe 50 km 7° 10° (subduction interface) 17° 70 km 3. shear plane.p.7 0.9° 10. ramp angle (d∞ ) b Dynamic state of actual wedge Subduction 13.hydrostatic) 0.0° ) stable 27.6 0.7 0.6° 44.p.6 Critical Critical taper model results Critical taper (a+b ) crit Angle of s -direction/wedge base (y ) 1 b Forethrust-related s. [Z compressional stress regime.

the critical taper results are graphically presented in a Mohr diagram (Fig. Fig.7). Adam. 3 and 6). Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 311 and active dynamic processes of basal tectonic erosion. Critical taper model for the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge The model for the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge is used to limit the possible dynamic states (basal erosion to overcritical wedge extension) for a crustal forearc wedge characterised by a present taper of (a+b ) =13. it implies different dynamic behaviours within the toe segment and the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge. The stress z z circle for the compressional state of stress shows a gently inclined subhorizontal maximum stress direction (s inclined by 13° to the wedge base) 1c and results in a detached wedge base with an active subduction interface on top of the oceanic crust. Thrust faulting indicated by focal mechanisms of shallow earthquakes (depth≤30 km. The extensional surface deformation is the expression of regional near-surface stress release within an overcritical but stable forearc wedge to maintain the required critical minimum taper. t ). Pervasive . a high frictional base with an intermediate strength ratio ( x#0. The wedge surface has a significant slope break in the offshore area (50 km east of the trench axis) separating a toe segment from the internal outer forearc wedge (Figs. This position near the lower minimum taper boundary reflects the steady-state dynamic equilibrium between mass transfer and internal deformation processes in accretionary complexes and forearc wedges. This basal accretion of crustal material results in crustal thickening of the rear part of the outer forearc wedge and is a potential mechanism for the ongoing uplift of the coastal area. 1996) supports this dynamic model. 8.5) can be modelled by a significantly increased basal pore fluid pressure ratio (l =0. Near-surface extension with normal faulting would be favoured by overpressured crustal detachments. 7c) near the lower boundary (critical minimum taper). C. dominantly shaped by frontal and basal accretive mass transfer modes.6 characterising a partly submerged wedge.1. This topographic feature cannot be explained by a geometrical variation along the subduction interface (wedge base) or by a change within the crustal structure of the upper plate.5°. This resulting wedge dynamic reflects adequately the active geodynamic setting of the internal outer forearc wedge segment. This is shown in our model by contemporaneous extensional and compressional limiting states of stress within the internal segment of the outer forearc. set ). Additionally. Finding these detachments is a task for further geophysical investigations. In contrast to this compressive basal accretion mechanism. illustrating the general state of stress and active fault kinematics within the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge at depth z (s . 8c). The model topo parameters are summarised in Table 1. Thus. Delouis et al.. This critical b taper model results in a stable to slightly overcritical wedge geometry for the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge with (a+b ) =12°. This concept is supported by the pronounced segmentation of the outer forearc wedge geometry. 7c. This crit stable to slightly overcritical taper will be obtained by active underplating at the wedge base (see Fig. The critical to slightly overcritical internal segment of the outer forearc wedge will plot inside the stability field (open circle. the stability field diagram for the applied wedge specific parameter set is plotted in Fig. neotectonic and active surface structures in the outer forearc show trench parallel extension. 6. Contemporaneous steeper dipping thrust faults allow basal accretion and underplating of tectonically eroded forearc wedge material. The normal faults are dynamically interpreted as a result of the extensional collapse of the slightly overcritical wedge due to continuous thickening by underplating.-D. Contemporaneous wedge internal extensional deformation may occur to readjust the required minimum critical taper. Due to an internal pore fluid pressure ratio l=0. The wedgein Table 1) specific parameter set (parameter set describes a partly submerged crustal forearc wedge with a high frictional wedge base. For a more detailed discussion and evaluation of the possible dynamic states of the partly submerged high frictional outer forearc wedge.J.

-D.312 J. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 . Adam. C.

topo Therefore. even for a submerged toe segment with strong basal traction (for example x=0. the segmentation must be the expression of the different dynamic states within the toe segment and the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge system. With decreasing shear strength contrast. In the particular case of forearc wedges shaped by active Coulomb-type basal erosion. the stability field will be reduced to a line. . In this case the outer forearc wedge reflects the minimum critical taper. C. Adam. (b) Transitional segment of the outer forearc wedge during underthrusting of eroded toe material. The open circle corresponds to the actual geometry of the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge and plots within the stability field near the minimum taper boundary characterising a stable wedge geometry with a critical to overcritical taper due to active basal underplating accompanied by surficial extension. The graph demonstrates that the variation of the angle of internal/basal friction over a wide range of suitable values in continental crust is a minor influence on the required internal/basal pore fluid pressure ratio for basal erosion.-D. the stability 7°. In the state of basal erosion only one stable wedge configuration exists for any possible dip of the subduction zone. Stability field diagrams for the North-Chilean outer forearc-wedge system (surface slope a versus basal dip b ).5° to 17° in the toe segment cannot be correlated with a changing crustal composition and structure of the upper plate or with a geometrical variation along the forearc wedge base. In terms of Coulomb wedge mechanics for the present forearc wedge geometry (a+b=13. But.68 in Fig. Under these particular conditions for the known taper (a+b ) of the toe segment. This topographic slope is near the angle of repose of the forearc crust (a =25° ) max and may not be realised within the forearc setting even by a significant increase of basal friction. Applying this procedure to the toe segment (a= in Table 1). it is possible to evaluate the mechanical parameters controlling active basal erosion by a structural approach. the required strength ratio x=1 is controlled by the relation of the pore fluid pressure ratios (l=l =l ) b erosion which now is the only unknown parameter of the critical taper solution. Thus. During basal erosion the stability field is minimised to a line. the toe segment must represent the maximum taper on the verge of the existence limit due to continuous basal tectonic erosion. b=10°. 7. data set line fits the required toe geometry at Fig. For a particular set of mechanical parameters and known basal dip b only a single topographic slope a exists to establish the maximum taper for a wedge suffering basal erosion. (d) Required pore fluid pressure ratio depending on the variation of the angle of internal friction resulting in a stable wedge geometry for the present toe segment under basal erosion.5° is significantly lower crit than the present taper of (a+b ) =17°. Critical taper model for the toe segment of the outer forearc wedge The taper increase from (a+b )=13. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 313 extensional deformation of the entire forearc crust can be excluded because it only occurs in maximum tapered critical wedges (upper boundary of stability field). The theoretical maximum critical taper of the modelled forearc wedge segment with a basal dip b=10° is attained with a topographic slope a=22°. 8. The open circle corresponds to the actual geometry of the internal segment of the outer forearc wedge. 7b.5° ) nearly lithostatic internal and basal pore fluid pressure ratios must be assumed to enable basal tectonic erosion of the continental forearc crust (see also next paragraph). Increasing basal traction leads to a reduction of the stability field resulting from the converging upper and lower limits.J. (a) Toe segment of the outer forearc wedge at the verge of the existence limit without discrete wedge base and shaped by basal erosion. In this case (continuous subduction erosion driven only by Coulomb wedge mechanics and steady-state dynamic equilibrium of the outer forearc wedge geometry) the toe geometry reflects the mechanical conditions of basal tectonic erosion along the North-Chilean convergent margin. In the stability field diagram the parameter l fixes the vertical position of erosion the stability line and can be adjusted by iteration. (c) Outer forearc wedge segment modelled as partly submerged wedge with high frictional wedge base. The open circle corresponds to the actual geometry of the toe segment of the outer forearc wedge. data set in Table 1) the required critical minimum taper (a+b ) =13. Similar arguments are reasonable to exclude active tectonic erosion at the base of the internal outer forearc wedge as source for the thrust-related earthquakes near the wedge base.2.

a=3. b=10° ).314 J. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 Fig.1°. b=10° ). t ).5°. Mohr diagrams.6°. Adam. (a) Compressional limiting state of stress within the maximum tapered ‘stable’ toe segment of the outer forearc wedge on z z the verge of the existence limit due to maximum basal friction and basal tectonic erosion (a∞=23. 8. a=7°. b=10° ).0°. C. (b) Compressional limiting state of stress within the minimum critical tapered transitional segment of the outer forearc wedge characterised by continuous subduction (underthrusting) of erosional debris from the base of the leading toe segment (a∞=9. (c) Extensional and compressional limiting states of stress within the critical to overcritical internal segment of the outer forearc wedge characterised by active basal underplating and near-surface extensional adjustment by normal faulting (a∞=3. a=3. . illustrating the general state of stress and active fault kinematics within the outer forearc wedge at depth z (sn . (d) General state of stress and active fault kinematics within the subcritical inner forearc wedge at depth z.-D.5°.

For this reason. This process shifts the active subduction interface down into the underthrusted material or finally on top of the oceanic crust. Thus. Byerlee. The process is comparable with the subduction channel model for sediment subduction (Cloos and Shreve. 8. The active basal subduction erosion results from similar mechanical properties in the toe segment and along its base (w=w [l=l ). Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 315 l =0. Minor thrust faults.-D. Moore and Byrne. the subduction interface on top of the oceanic crust. 7a).02) can be observed. beneath the transitional wedge segment.. 1987). the dynamic behaviour of the outer forearc wedge is controlled by the gradual decrease of basal coupling ( lowering of x. The compressional limitb b ing state of stress within the toe segment is characterised by a relatively steep inclined subhorizontal maximum stress direction (s inclined 27. normal faults and slump structures in the frontal part of the toe segment. In this state of stress an additional minimum increase of the shear strength ratio ( x>1 if l >0. indicate this locally unstable taper. a transitional critically tapered wedge segment is required which performs the mass transfer of erosional debris by basal transport and underthrusting in arcward direction. In the limits of geological applicable values (w#30° for accretionary complexes to w#40° continental crust without preexisting fractures. The present taper of the submerged toe segment (a+b=17° ) is illustrated as a shaded prism. the active subduction interface of the upper plate/ lower plate system is located in the hanging wall of the subduction channel with erosional debris.3. Critical taper model for the transient segment of the outer forearc wedge To allow a gradual variation of wedge dynamics from simultaneous basal erosion to underplating. 1988a. e. Furthermore. the erosional debris partly re-enters the internal outer forearc wedge by basal underplating. For b the present taper geometry we calculate l for erosion w values ranging from 20°≤ w=w ≤50°. a new detachment will be formed in the toe segment to act as a new active subduction interface. This fluid pressure ratios erosion for active Coulomb-type basal erosion characterises an overpressured toe segment (see Fig. 7d. the pronounced topographic break 50 km east of the trench axis is the surficial indication of this transition between the toe seg- .J.83±0.g. In northern Chile. we evaluate the sensitivity of this procedure for variations of the angle of internal and basal friction (in our model w=w =35° ). The diagram shows that the determination of l is erosion almost independent from the angle of internal/basal friction. determined from reflection seismic data (Reichert and CINCA Study Group. a temporary unstable wedge geometry may be indicated by extensional or compressional deformation structures. erosion The compressional state of stress and active fault kinematics within the toe segment are graphically presented in a Mohr diagram ( Fig. 8a). Oceanic crust and erosive material together form the subducting footwall system of the transitional outer forearc wedge segment. Because basal wedge transport on top of the Nasca Plate is stopped.83) starts Coulomb-type basal tectonic erob sion. The extensional limiting state of stress and active normal faults (extensional adjustment) are also illustrated in Fig. The b results are graphically shown in Fig. 1978). C.83 (Fig. 7a). With increasing depth.88. for example by strain hardening or dewatering processes. any minor variation of the boundary conditions shifts the wedge geometry into an unstable extensional or compressional limiting state of stress (see Fig. 1996). 6 ) and is in a similar range to characteristic l values. Beneath the adjacent wedge segment in the coastal area. Therefore. measured directly in submarine accretionary complexes (average value for l=0.b). the basal mechanical variation in the down-dip direction triggers progressive footwall collapse. Lallemand et al. The forethrust-related set of slip lines will be preferred and the material in the footwall of the newly formed detachment will be basally eroded and transported arcward with the subducting oceanic plate in a high strain deformation zone or melange zone. 1994). Adam. no significant fluctuation (l =0. 8a. Because in this special case the stability field is reduced to a line.5° to 1c the wedge base) and the forethrust-related slip lines rotate parallel to the wedge base.

In the associated stability field diagram the transitional segment plots at the lower minimum-taper boundary (open circle. The maximum tapered. Fig.68. 9. Geologically. because the minor dynamic variation from stable-underthrusting to stableunderplating causes no significant variation in the topographic slope. Adam.5° charactrans terises a critical-shaped. The start conditions of the procedure are given by the mechanical parameters of the erosive toe segment (l #0. whereas the upper trench slope toe with an average slope a =3. which is required for basal wedge transport and active underthrusting of eroded forearc material. It is remarkable that the small reduction of the internal pore fluid pressure ratio results in a significant drop of the strength ratio from x=1 to x=0. 7b) reflecting the typically stable geometry of Coulomb wedges in a pro-wedge setting. The state of stress and active fault kinematics within the transitional segment are shown in the Mohr diagram of Fig.5° ). Steeper dipping thrust faults are able to attain or readjust the critical wedge geometry by minor internal deformation. For estitrans mation of the bulk reduction of the strength ratio. The arcward transition zone from active basal tectonic erosion to underthrusting is the consequence of the decreasing strength ratio ( x<1) within the external outer forearc wedge and is superficially expressed by a remarkable decrease of the middle trench slope (a =3.4.9° to the 1c wedge base) and results in a detached wedge base with an active subduction interface located in the hanging wall of the underthrusted erosional debris. The entire wedgespecific parameter set for the transitional segment is summarised in Table 1 (parameter set ). C. The compressional state of stress shows a gently inclined. the stability field diagrams of the three outer forearc wedge segments (toe . The progressive contraction of the stability field in the trenchward direction is clearly shown in this overlay. sured. 8. subhorizontal maximum stress direction (s inclined 16. crit trans this process is comparable with the successive dewatering of the arcward thickening outer forearc wedge consisting of extensively prestructured framework rock.316 J. 8b. data set Adjusting the critical taper of the transitional wedge segment by decreasing the internal pore fluid pressure ratio l demonstrates clearly that a minor reduction of the internal pore fluid pressure ratio of about 4% (to l=0. 6). reflecting the gradual transition of the mechanical conditions in the outer forearc wedge. internal segment ) are summarised in Fig. characterising a high-frictional forearc wedge with strong basal coupling. stable transitional segment (see Fig.5°.5° characterises the trans minimum tapered. The stability field area decreases continuously from the internal outer forearc wedge segment (coastal area) to the transitional segment (upper trench slope) and finally in the erosional toe segment ( lower and middle trench slope). stable wedge geometry. stable wedge geometry of the transitional segment. (2) The present taper (a+b ) =13. The intermediate position of the transitional . The arcward limit of the transitional segment is uncertain.8 – overpreserosion in Table 1). erosive toe segment builds up the steep lower and middle trench slope with a =7°. b=10° ).-D.77) is sufficient to support the minimum tapered. The compressional limiting states of stress within the minimum tapered transitional segment is characterised by ongoing basal wedge transport. the wedge-specific parameter x is gradually lowered until the resulting critical taper matches the observed wedge geometry of the transitional segment (a =a =3. the upper and lower boundaries of the stability field are merged into a ‘‘stability-line’’. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 ment and the transitional outer forearc wedge segments. The initial conditions for the frictional wedge model of the transitional outer forearc wedge segment can be summarised as follows: (1) The model parameters of the transitional segment have to be obtained by a reasonable variation of the wedge-specific data set of the erosional toe segment (data set in Table 1). to detach the transitional segment and to stop basal tectonic erosion. transitional . Spatial variation of the stability field in the outer forearc wedge of northern Chile and it’s geodynamic interpretation To show the dynamic variation of the outer forearc wedge from basal tectonic erosion to underplating.

This dynamically controlled state is indicated by a pronounced geometric segmentation and by a complex. This lowers the minimum taper boundary. 9). Thus. 9). Now the interaction of tectonic deformation and mass transfer establish a dynamically controlled equilibrium of wedgestabilising and destabilising processes. active stress regime. Variation within the stability field and derived geodynamic behavior of the outer forearc wedge (surface slope a versus basal dip b ) controlled by the changing mechanical conditions within the toe segment ( basal erosion) and the internal outer forearc wedge ( underthrusting and underplating and extensional adjustment).J. Therefore. slightly overcritical taper ( in Fig. Critical taper model for the inner forearc wedge In contrast to the mainly submerged outer forearc wedge system. As a consequence. Otherwise. Finally. Index numbers of the three dynamic states refer to the wedge-specific parameter sets in Table 1. 9). the lower minimum-taper boundary ascends and the wedge taper increases by internal shortening and mass transfer to adjust to the required stable minimum taper (indicated by the grey arrow in Fig. 9) is comparable with segment (circle the long-term. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 317 Fig. C. the maximum taper is adjusted and basal tectonic erosion begins (toe segment in Fig. Small mechanical modifications can initiate basal tectonic erosion and. 9. consequently. basic taper of (a+b )= 13. if the stability field is reduced to a line. the subaerial inner forearc wedge is mechanical embedded in the overriding South American Plate. seem to be extremely sensitive to minor variations of the wedge-specific mechanical parameters. 9. Non-accretive outer forearc wedges. if a mechanical variation along the base of a non-erosive outer forearc wedge develops. Towards the arc. which is situated entirely upon the subducting oceanic Nasca Plate. The increased basal coupling in a trenchward direction leads to a reduction of the stability field. dynamically stable wedge geometry over a wide range from intermediate to strong basal coupling. in Fig. In our model. the stability field is enlarged as a result of decreasing basal coupling. static-stable state of non-erosive outer forearc wedges at non-accretive margins. the former static-stable state will be transformed into a dynamic-stable state. These non-erosive outer forearc wedges seem to be controlled by uniform basal mechanical conditions and the lack of notable exogenetic mass transfer and significant internal deformation. In the North-Chilean outer forearc wedge system this dynamic equilibrium provides stable taper variations (a+b ) about 5° (from 12° in the coastal area up to 17° near the trench axis) shifting around an intermediate. as shown by observations of the erosive North-Chilean outer forearc. the minimum taper for the internal outer forearc wedge ( in Fig. 9) is controlled by continuous basal underplating. shift an active margin from a static-stable geodynamic state with minor deformation into a contrasting dynamically stable geodynamic state with strong deformation and significant orogenic mass transfer.-D. 9). characterised by a very strong base.5° (indicated by the transitional segment. an important result is that high frictional forearc wedges are capable of building up a long-term. Adam. 9) is not yet adjusted because the present. in Fig. the wedge taper will be narrowed through extensional deformation and surficial mass transfer until the new minimum tapered state is reached (indicated by the white arrow in Fig. probably mechanical decoupled from the ductile crust .

so that frictional wedge model results may interpreted quantitatively? (2) Is the wedge base thermally weakened. 10. The result of the applied parameter set . Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 through a slightly arcward dipping intracrustal discontinuity (Fig.6). The state of stress at depth z (sn . The modelled compressional limiting state of stress within this narrow wedge is characterised by a subhorizontal maximum stress axis (s inclined 11. The present taper of the inner forearc wedge (a+b=8° ) is significantly smaller than in the outer forearc wedge system.t ) and the z z active fault kinematics within the subcritically tapered inner forearc wedge are shown in the Mohr diagram of Fig. which indicate a subcritical wedge increasing its taper by internal thrusting and folding.35 is required (wedgespecific parameter set for a hypothetical detached inner forearc wedge in Table 1). 8d. set ). stable wedge geometry by active compression and internal shortening by thrusting and folding (see Fig. A small-scale field structure reflecting this state of stress for conjugate thrust faults is shown in Fig. so that a low frictional model is more suitable to describe the dynamics of the inner forearc? (3) Is it more appropriate to use numerical models with composite. Active fault mechanics and mass transfer in the North-Chilean forearc system The regional correlation between the active state of stress and the active deformation structures between the Chilean trench and the Western Cordillera are summarised in Fig. The inner forearc wedge is modelled as a crustal forearc wedge with a high frictional wedge base.318 J. ). Due to subaerial wedge conditions. favoured by numerous evaporitic layers within the rock succession and previous structures which will be reactivated when fitting the actual fault geometry and mechanical conditions.-D. C. Within a subduction channel (Fig. The present average topographic crit slope a=1. a hydrostatic internal pore fluid pressure ratio l=0. 10. the intermediate strength ratio ( x#0. 8d) expressed by neotectonic west.0° is significantly smaller than the critical topographic slope a =3. The wedge-specific parameter set is summarised in Table 1 (set ).and eastverging thrusts. 10). 10. 6. In this subcritical crit state the inner forearc wedge is basally attached and has to build up a critically tapered. intermediate wedge base with x#0. brittle deformation mechanically decoupled from ductile deformation in the lower lithosphere of the inner forearc.8° to the wedge 1c base). the erosional debris is transported arcward with the subducting Nazca Plate beneath the transitional segment of the outer forearc wedge (Fig.4°. The divergence of more than 2° between the present and required topographic slope indicates a subcritical state far from the minimum taper geometry. weak wedge base with x#0.5 to a low frictional. In this case. Similar mechanical properties within the toe segment and along its base prohibit a discrete wedge base and control Coulomb-type basal tectonic erosion.5) of the high frictional base is modelled by a slightly increased basal pore fluid pressure ratio (l =0. The subcritical inner forearc wedge is under active compression and internal deformation processes favour active forethrusts and backthrusts (Fig. To shift the subaerial inner forearc wedge into a critical state a dramatical decrease of the strength ratio from a high frictional. Therefore.42 is assumed for the model. 4d. Adam. thermally controlled rheologies (brittle-ductile) for analysing the dynamics of the inner forearc wedge? 10. This results in the formation of a basal melange zone below a wedge-internal detachment in the outer forearc crust (LCD in Fig. the results of the frictional wedge model for the inner forearc wedge should be considered under more general aspects of lithospheric modelling. 3). Active thrust faulting in the inner forearc wedge is characterised by outof-sequence thrusts. explains adequately the neotectonic field observations. Some aspects and open questions for future modelling of inner forearc dynamics are: (1) Is the upper crustal. This critical taper b model results in an unstable subcritical wedge geometry for the inner forearc wedge with (a+b ) =10.4°. ). Basal accretion of parts of the erosional debris . characterised by an intermediate strength ratio ( x#0.5).

). Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 319 Fig. this mechanism controls the regional uplift.-D. General implications of Coulomb-wedge modelling for mass transfer modes at erosive margins In terms of Coulomb wedge mechanics frontal and basal tectonic erosion occur only under partic- . Trench parallel near surface extension by normal faults are interpreted as extensional collapse of the slightly overcritical wedge (Fig. ). In the onshore outer forearc of northern Chile. The upper crustal rocks are detached along large listric normal faults in the hanging wall of overpressured horizons and slide into the trench ( Fig. 10.J. 10. ) in the inner forearc and the western rim of the recent magmatic arc reflect compressional internal deformation corresponding to a subcritical crustal wedge. Schematic dynamic cross-section summarising the kinematics of the main active tectonic structures and the active states of stress at the North-Chilean forearc (numbers refer to explanation in Section 10). Synchronous post- Pliocene/Pleistocene west-verging forethrusts and east-verging backthrusts (Fig. is controlled by the decreasing basal coupling in the down-dip direction of the wedge base. Adam. 10. 11. 10. C. 10. ). Underplating of the downcarried erosional debris forms crustal stacks at the internal base of the outer forearc-wedge (Fig.

It can be demonstrated that the erosion ‘‘oversteepend’’ maximum taper geometry up to (a+b )=17° is controlled by basal tectonic erosion.. For this reason.-D. Regarding particular mechanical conditions (strong basal coupling. basal tectonic erosion as dominant mass transfer mode should occur in the neartrench segment of high-frictional outer forearc wedges. particularly along the wedge base. have to adjust a typical mass transfer pattern in arcward direction. Our models describe the processes and boundary conditions of continuous. because these taper values cannot be established by tectonic deformation and mass transfer for geologically reasonable mechanical parameter sets of the continental forearc crust.b) and in analogue sandbox experiments ( Kukowski et al. underthrusting and underplating). underthrusting and underplat- ing). Global correlation with other present-day erosive margins In the summarised stability field diagram for active accretionary wedges and non-accretive margins ( Fig.8). The mechanical conditions for Coulomb-type basal erosion. C. Each of the three contrasting mass transfer modes generates characteristic deformation structures and wedge tapers. Stability fields are plotted for typical sedimentary accretionary wedges with (Lallemand et al.b) and finally. Generally. As shown by the Coulomb-wedge analysis of the North-Chilean outer forearc system. Structural approach for evaluation of the mechanical conditions for Coulomb-type basal erosion at non-accretive margins In the state of basal tectonic erosion of the forearc wedges. 12. This mass transfer pattern is governed by three different modes consisting of: (1) basal erosion (toe segment). frontal erosion processes are caused by the short-term modification of the wedge shape due to subducting topographic asperities of the oceanic crust (horst-and-graben structures. which are shaped through longterm basal tectonic erosion. with the wedge geometries of various present-day active margins.320 J. 1994). 11) we have correlated our results. outer forearc segments at nonaccretive margins. deduced from the North-Chilean outer forearc wedge. (2) subduction/underthrusting (transitional segment). for a wide range of crustal properties. the stability line for base . 1990). Because in the erosional state the (a+b ) stability field of the wedge is reduced to a stability line. seamounts or aseismic ridges. which is probably depth-dependent. intensely investigated at accretive margins (Gutscher et al. that Coulomb-type basal tectonic erosion indicates a remarkable overpressure of the basal and internal pore fluid pressure ratios (l #0. is similar to typical high frictional wedge systems (accretion. the transition between the different dynamics states and their mass transfer modes is controlled by a small modification of the shear strength contrast between the crustal wedge and its base.. as observed along the erosive North-Chilean margin. Thus. cannot be maintained over an extended region in the down-dip direction of the outer forearc wedge. and (3) underplating of erosional material (internal segment). Adam. Consequently. the present geometry of erosional wedge segments is the key to evaluate the significant mechanical parameters controlling basal tectonic erosion. x=1) Coulomb wedges will suffer significant basal erosion over geological time scales. characterised by a typical maximum-taper wedge geometry as observed in northern Chile. 1998a. This dynamical succession of mass transfer modes (erosion. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 ular conditions. 1994). only one corresponding topographic slope a exists for any basal dip b. low frictional base crustal forearc wedges with high frictional wedge (a. independently from external effects as frontal subduction of asperities. The application of this procedure on to the erosive toe segment of the North-Chilean outer forearc wedge shows. long-term basal tectonic erosion at non-accretive margins completely in terms of Coulomb wedge mechanics.. Huene and Lallemand. 13. only a particular wedge geometry establishes a dynamic-stable state during tectonic destruction and erosive mass transfer reflecting its mechanical conditions.

11). and stability line considerations from Lallemand et al. C. NC1-Toe – toe segment. T2 – Tonga 20°. T3 – Tonga 23°. J4 – Japan 40°40∞. B2 – Barbados. for forearc wedges on the verge of the existence limit shaped by Coulomb-type basal tectonic erosion (mean friction angles and pore derived and for calculated by the present wedge geometry of the North-Chilean outer forearc system. forearc wedges shaped by Coulomb-type basal tectonic erosion. Data set for mean tapers of active margins from Lallemand et al. Stability field diagram for active subduction-related accretionary wedges and crustal forearc wedges with mean tapers of 30 transects across active continental margins (modified after Lallemand et al. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 321 Fig. J2 – Japan 39°40∞. 1994 (table 2. B1 – South Barbados. J1 – Japan 37°. CA – Central Aleutian. Mq – Martinique.. SK – southern Kurile. Stability fields are plotted for typical sedimentary accretionary wedges with low frictional base (mean friction angles and pore fluid pressure ratios from measurements and structural (a+b) crustal forearc wedges with high-frictional wedge base. NK – North Kermadec. Hi – Hikurangi. The mean friction angles and pore fluid pressure ratios for the stability fields are calcuare derived and for the stability line lated by the present wedge geometry of the NorthChilean outer forearc system (NC1-Toe and NC1-OFW in Fig. Gu – Guadeloupe. (ii) intermediate: Mn – Manila. Or – Oregon. NC1-OFW internal segment of outer forearc wedge (this paper). fluid pressure ratios for hatched corridor indicates vertical shift of the erosional stability line by minor variation of the porefluid pressure ratio). Su – Sumba. In addition. 1994). Adam. NH – New Hebrides. Na – Nankai.-D.. T1 – Tonga 19°. SK – South Kermadec. NC2 – northern Chile. the mean tapers of 28 transects across active continental . (iii) non-accretive: NB – New Britain. (i) accretive. 11. Bb – Barbuda. Os – Osbourn.J.. J3 – Japan 40°10∞. Pe – Peru. 1994). p. 12 039). Ka – Kashima.

The software workflow requires a prior definition of units and quantities. Technische Universita ¨ t Berlin and GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam. Adam. The stability line. the wedge geometry and segmentation) by frictional wedge modelling gives extensive information about the internal and basal mechanical properties of the outer forearc wedge which is additionally confirmed by a global geometric comparison with other non-accretive mar- . The geometric data for the typical accretionary and intermediate accretionary wedges are clustered near the minimum tapered boundary of the associated stability fields. 14. Wdowinski for critical and constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper. Reuther / Tectonophysics 321 (2000) 297–325 margins are plotted (compiled in Lallemand et al. Coulomb-type basal tectonic erosion occurs under clearly determined mechanical conditions and generates a dynamic-stable wedge geometry and wedge segmentation with characteristic deformation and mass transfer patterns.. Therefore. 11) close to the ‘‘erosive’’ stability line. Coulomb-type basal erosion of outer forearc wedges seems to be a fundamental process at non-accretive margins. the data from the active margins of North Kermadec and Osbourn in the corridor (hatched area in Fig. Inc. The mathematical results are shown in Table 1 (critical taper model results) and are graphically illustrated by Mohr circle presentations. Acknowledgements Field work for this study was carried out within the project TP A1. Bonn.g. deduced by the wedge geometry of the erosive toe segment in northern Chile. 1994). Furthermore.-D. Lallemand and S.). Therefore. Consequently. it is possible to get new insights into the dynamics of present day erosive outer forearc systems from structural considerations. financially supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Appendix: Numerical procedures: critical taper calculations for non-cohesive Coulomb wedges In the present study.322 J. Future detailed analyses and global correlation of these erosive margins should improve our model. C. But the most important result is given by the stability line for erosive wedges. shows a strong correlation with the wedge geometries of various present-day erosive margins. these wedge geometries are reflecting the dynamically stable state of accretionary and crustal wedges. gins. Reuther). We thank S. Freie Universita ¨ t Berlin. The data from the active margins of Tonga (19°S ) and New Britain plot on to the ‘‘erosive’’ stability line.-D. The computation and presentation of the procedures are generated by the software program MC (trademark of Mathsoft. it is essential to study the deformation processes and tectonic mass transfer during Coulomb-type basal erosion by numerical and analogue-sandbox modelling. which correlates with the geometric properties of numerous nonaccretive margins all over the world. Conclusions Long-term. This is a strong indication for Coulomb-type basal erosion as the principal deformation processes at these non-accretive margins and for the validity of our general concept of Coulomb-type basal erosion and the deduced structural approach for evaluating the mechanical conditions for Coulomb-type basal erosion at non-accretive margins. Sonderforschungsbereich 267 ‘‘Deformationsprozesse in den Anden’’. licensed to C. In Appendix 1 all procedures for the calculations are summarised. the analysis of the diagnostic features (e. the computations for the critical taper of non-cohesive wedges follow the classical approach and numerical procedures of Dahlen (1984). Therefore. which develop in a pro-wedge setting at active margins. As shown for northern Chile. the equations are shown with an example data set and the order of presentation is determined by software requirements and differs from the order given in the referenced literature.

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