Sedimentary record of Andean mountain building

Research paper by Brian K. Horton

Indexed on: 28 Feb '18Published on: 26 Feb '18Published in: Revista de la Sociedad Española del Dolor


Publication date: March 2018 Source:Earth-Science Reviews, Volume 178 Author(s): Brian K. Horton Integration of regional stratigraphic relationships with data on sediment accumulation, provenance, paleodrainage, and deformation timing enables a reconstruction of Mesozoic-Cenozoic subduction-related mountain building along the western margin of South America. Sedimentary basins evolved in a wide range of structural settings on both flanks of the Andean magmatic arc, with strong signatures of retroarc crustal shortening, flexure, and rapid accumulation in long-lived foreland and hinterland basins. Extensional basins also formed during pre-Andean backarc extension and locally in selected forearc, arc, and retroarc zones during Late Cretaceous-Cenozoic Andean orogenesis. Major transitions in topography and sediment routing are recovered through provenance studies, particularly detrital zircon U-Pb geochronological applications, which distinguish three principal sediment source regions—the South American craton, Andean magmatic arc, and retroarc fold-thrust belt. Following the cessation of Late Triassic–Early Cretaceous extensional and/or postextensional neutral-stress conditions, a Late Cretaceous-early Paleocene inception of Andean shortening was chronicled in retroarc regions along the western margin by rapid flexural subsidence, a wholesale reversal in drainage patterns, and provenance switch from eastern cratonic sources to Andean sources. An enigmatic Paleogene hiatus in the Andean foreland succession recorded diminished accumulation and/or regional unconformity development, contemporaneous with a phase of limited shortening or neutral to locally extensional conditions. Seemingly contradictory temporal fluctuations in tectonic regimes, defined by contrasting (possibly cyclical) phases of shortening, neutral, and extensional conditions, can be linked to the degree of mechanical coupling along the subduction plate boundary. Along-strike variations in Late Cretaceous-Cenozoic deformation and crustal thickening demonstrate contrasting high-shortening versus low-shortening modes of Andean orogenesis, in which the central Andes are distinguished by large-magnitude east-west shortening (>150–300km) and corresponding cratonward advance of the fold-thrust belt and foreland basin system, several times that of the northern and southern Andes. These temporal and spatial changes in shortening and overall tectonic regime can be related to variable plate coupling during first-order shifts in plate convergence, second-order cycles of slab shallowing and steepening, and second-order cycles of shortening, lithospheric removal and local partial extensional collapse in highly shortened and thickened segments of the orogen.