Modélisation couplée tectonique et processus de surface de l'extension et l'inversion dans les Pyrénées

par Zoltan Erdös

Thèse de doctorat en Sciences de la terre et de l'univers, et de l'environnement

Sous la direction de Peter van der Beek et de Ritske Huismans.

Le président du jury était François Roure.

Le jury était composé de Peter van der Beek, Ritske Huismans, Haakon Fossen.

Les rapporteurs étaient Taras Gerya.


  • Résumé

    Orogenic belts are fundamental features of plate tectonics. The crustal structure of orogens around the world shows a wide range of deformation styles from narrow, asymmetric wedges like the Pyrenees to wide, plateau-like orogens such as the Zagros or the Himalaya. The primary controlling factor on the size and structure of an orogen is the amount of convergence between the colliding plates. However, there are important additional factors providing major controls on the structural development of orogens. Among the potential parameters that can affect the style of deformation are the crustal strength, inherited weaknesses, and the surface processes. These parameters have been studied extensively in the past but their relative importance remains unclear. The aim of this thesis is to improve our understanding of: (1) How surface processes affect mountain building, with a special focus on the relationship between thin-skinned foreland and thick-skinned internal deformation of orogens. (2) How inherited extensional structures affect mountain building. The study was carried out using the Pyrenees as a special reference case. To answer our research questions we have used a wide range of state-of-the-art numerical modelling tools. In paper 1 we present a new method where we couple a structural-kinematic model and a thermo-kinematic model to evaluate the consistency of existing balanced section reconstructions with independent thermochronology data. In papers 2 and 3 we use 2D lithospheric scale thermo-mechanical models with surface process algorithms. Using the above toolset, we demonstrate that syntectonic sedimentation results in longer basement thrust sheets as well as longer thin-skinned thrust sheets and a generally wider orogen. Conversely erosion tends to narrow the wedge and reduce the orogenic loading of the colliding plates, limiting the space available for deposition in the flexural foreland deeps. We also demonstrate that inherited extensional structures play a crucial role in mountain building as they facilitate the migration of deformation into the undeformed basement of the overriding plate. Moreover, a significant amount of lower-crustal/mantle-lithospheric material is preserved at shallow depths only in the presence of extensional inheritance, but significant erosion is needed in order to bring this material to the surface. Our models also show that thin-skinned thrust sheets are generally rooted in the footwall of basement thrusts as they form outward-propagating sequences. As soon as a new basement thrust forms, the thin-skinned sequence situated on top of the new basement thrust-sheet is abandoned in favour of starting a new sequence in the footwall of the new thrust. Regarding our case study, it was possible to reproduce the section restoration using a structural-kinematic model with high accuracy up to the 36-Ma time slice and with limited accuracy up to the 50-Ma time slice. The thermochronometric ages predicted by the thermo-kinematic modelling are generally in good agreement with both the high- and low-temperature thermochronology data available in the Central Pyrenees; hence we conclude that the restoration is to a first order consistent with these datasets. The predicted thermochronological ages approximate the available low-temperature thermochronology data better by taking into account the late-stage burial and re-excavation scenario affecting the southern flank of the Pyrenean wedge presented by Coney et al. (1996), and quantified by Fillon and van der Beek (2012). In conclusion, our model experiments suggest, that extensional inheritance played a prime role in the structural evolution of the Pyrenees, with the major characteristics of the North Pyrenean Unit, including the presence of steep, inverted normal faults, the relative tectonic quiescence of the area after the early inversion and the presence of a lower-crustal body at shallow depth below the unit, best recaptured by our accordion models.

  • Titre traduit

    Spatial and temporal coupling between tectonics and surface processes during lithosphere inversion of the Pyrenean-Cantabrian Mountain belt : contraints from exhumation histories and surface process modelling


  • Résumé

    Orogenic belts are fundamental features of plate tectonics. The crustal structure of orogens around the world shows a wide range of deformation styles from narrow, asymmetric wedges like the Pyrenees to wide, plateau-like orogens such as the Zagros or the Himalaya. The primary controlling factor on the size and structure of an orogen is the amount of convergence between the colliding plates. However, there are important additional factors providing major controls on the structural development of orogens. Among the potential parameters that can affect the style of deformation are the crustal strength, inherited weaknesses, and the surface processes. These parameters have been studied extensively in the past but their relative importance remains unclear. The aim of this thesis is to improve our understanding of: (1) How surface processes affect mountain building, with a special focus on the relationship between thin-skinned foreland and thick-skinned internal deformation of orogens. (2) How inherited extensional structures affect mountain building. The study was carried out using the Pyrenees as a special reference case. To answer our research questions we have used a wide range of state-of-the-art numerical modelling tools. In paper 1 we present a new method where we couple a structural-kinematic model and a thermo-kinematic model to evaluate the consistency of existing balanced section reconstructions with independent thermochronology data. In papers 2 and 3 we use 2D lithospheric scale thermo-mechanical models with surface process algorithms. Using the above toolset, we demonstrate that syntectonic sedimentation results in longer basement thrust sheets as well as longer thin-skinned thrust sheets and a generally wider orogen. Conversely erosion tends to narrow the wedge and reduce the orogenic loading of the colliding plates, limiting the space available for deposition in the flexural foreland deeps. We also demonstrate that inherited extensional structures play a crucial role in mountain building as they facilitate the migration of deformation into the undeformed basement of the overriding plate. Moreover, a significant amount of lower-crustal/mantle-lithospheric material is preserved at shallow depths only in the presence of extensional inheritance, but significant erosion is needed in order to bring this material to the surface. Our models also show that thin-skinned thrust sheets are generally rooted in the footwall of basement thrusts as they form outward-propagating sequences. As soon as a new basement thrust forms, the thin-skinned sequence situated on top of the new basement thrust-sheet is abandoned in favour of starting a new sequence in the footwall of the new thrust. Regarding our case study, it was possible to reproduce the section restoration using a structural-kinematic model with high accuracy up to the 36-Ma time slice and with limited accuracy up to the 50-Ma time slice. The thermochronometric ages predicted by the thermo-kinematic modelling are generally in good agreement with both the high- and low-temperature thermochronology data available in the Central Pyrenees; hence we conclude that the restoration is to a first order consistent with these datasets. The predicted thermochronological ages approximate the available low-temperature thermochronology data better by taking into account the late-stage burial and re-excavation scenario affecting the southern flank of the Pyrenean wedge presented by Coney et al. (1996), and quantified by Fillon and van der Beek (2012). In conclusion, our model experiments suggest, that extensional inheritance played a prime role in the structural evolution of the Pyrenees, with the major characteristics of the North Pyrenean Unit, including the presence of steep, inverted normal faults, the relative tectonic quiescence of the area after the early inversion and the presence of a lower-crustal body at shallow depth below the unit, best recaptured by our accordion models.


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