Continental rifting parallel to ancient collisional belts; an effect of the mechanical anisotropy of the lithospheric mantle

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doi: 10.1016/S0012-821X(00)00350-2
Authors:Tommasi, Andréa; Vauchez, Alain
Author Affiliations:Primary:
Université de Montpellier II, Laboratoire de Tectonophysique, Montpellier, France
Volume Title:Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Source:Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 185(1-2), p.199-210. Publisher: Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands. ISSN: 0012-821X
Publication Date:2001
Note:In English. 50 refs.; illus., incl. 1 table, sketch maps
Summary:Analysis of major rift systems suggests that the preexisting structure of the lithosphere is a key parameter in the rifting process. Rift propagation is not random, but tends to follow the trend of the orogenic fabric of the plates, systematically reactivating ancient lithospheric structures. Continental rifts often display a clear component of strike-slip deformation, in particular in the early rifting stage. Moreover, although the close temporal and spatial association between flood basalt eruption and continental breakup suggests that mantle plumes play an important role in the rifting process, there is a paradox between the pinpoint thermal and stress perturbation generated by an upwelling mantle plume and the planar geometry of rifts. These observations suggest that the deformation of the lithosphere, especially during rifting, is controlled by its preexisting structure. On the other hand, (1) the plasticity anisotropy of olivine single crystal and aggregates, (2) the strong crystallographic orientation of olivine observed in mantle xenoliths and lherzolite massifs, and (3) seismic anisotropy data, which require a tectonic fabric in the upper mantle coherent over large areas, suggest that preservation within the lithospheric mantle of a lattice preferred orientation (LPO) of olivine crystals may induce a large-scale mechanical anisotropy of the lithospheric mantle. We use a polycrystal plasticity model to investigate the effect of a preexisting mantle fabric on the continental breakup process. We assess the deformation of an anisotropic continental lithosphere in response to an axi-symmetric tensional stress field produced by an upwelling mantle plume by calculating the deformation of textured olivine polycrystals representative of the lithospheric mantle at different positions above a plume head. Model results show that a LPO-induced mechanical anisotropy of the lithospheric mantle may result in directional softening, leading to heterogeneous deformation. During continental rifting, this mechanical anisotropy may induce strain localisation in domains where extensional stress is oblique (30-55°) to the preexisting mantle fabric. This directional softening associated with olivine LPO frozen in the lithospheric mantle may also guide the propagation of the initial instability, that will follow the preexisting structural trend. The preexisting mantle fabric also controls the deformation regime, imposing a strong strike-slip shear component. A LPO-induced mechanical anisotropy may therefore explain the systematic reactivation of ancient collisional belts during rifting (structural inheritance), the plume-rift paradox, and the onset of transtension within continental rifts. Abstract Copyright (2001) Elsevier, B.V.
Subjects:Anisotropy; Caledonian Orogeny; Continental crust; Continental drift; Continental lithosphere; Crust; Deformation; Faults; Gondwana; Lithosphere; Mantle; Mantle plumes; Mechanical properties; Nesosilicates; Olivine; Olivine group; Orientation; Orogenic belts; Orogeny; Orthosilicates; Paleozoic; Pan-African Orogeny; Petrofabrics; Plasticity; Plate collision; Plate tectonics; Polycrystalline materials; Precambrian; Proterozoic; Reactivation; Rheology; Rifting; Silicates; Stress fields; Strike-slip faults; Tectonics; Theoretical models; Thermomechanical properties; Transform faults; Transtension; Upper mantle; Upper Precambrian; Variscan Orogeny; Africa; Atlantic region; North America; North American Craton; West African Shield
Abstract Numbers:01M/4384
Record ID:2001021692
Copyright Information:GeoRef, Copyright 2019 American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from CAPCAS, Elsevier Scientific Publishers, Amsterdam, Netherlands
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