Tectonic geomorphology and active strain of the Northern Apennines mountain front

Ponza, Alessio (2010) Tectonic geomorphology and active strain of the Northern Apennines mountain front, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Scienze della terra, 22 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/3002.
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The Northern Apennines (NA) chain is the expression of the active plate margin between Europe and Adria. Given the low convergence rates and the moderate seismic activity, ambiguities still occur in defining a seismotectonic framework and many different scenarios have been proposed for the mountain front evolution. Differently from older models that indicate the mountain front as an active thrust at the surface, a recently proposed scenario describes the latter as the frontal limb of a long-wavelength fold (> 150 km) formed by a thrust fault tipped around 17 km at depth, and considered as the active subduction boundary. East of Bologna, this frontal limb is remarkably very straight and its surface is riddled with small, but pervasive high- angle normal faults. However, west of Bologna, some recesses are visible along strike of the mountain front: these perturbations seem due to the presence of shorter wavelength (15 to 25 km along strike) structures showing both NE and NW-vergence. The Pleistocene activity of these structures was already suggested, but not quantitative reconstructions are available in literature. This research investigates the tectonic geomorphology of the NA mountain front with the specific aim to quantify active deformations and infer possible deep causes of both short- and long-wavelength structures. This study documents the presence of a network of active extensional faults, in the foothills south and east of Bologna. For these structures, the strain rate has been measured to find a constant throw-to-length relationship and the slip rates have been compared with measured rates of erosion. Fluvial geomorphology and quantitative analysis of the topography document in detail the active tectonics of two growing domal structures (Castelvetro - Vignola foothills and the Ghiardo plateau) embedded in the mountain front west of Bologna. Here, tilting and river incision rates (interpreted as that long-term uplift rates) have been measured respectively at the mountain front and in the Enza and Panaro valleys, using a well defined stratigraphy of Pleistocene to Holocene river terraces and alluvial fan deposits as growth strata, and seismic reflection profiles relationships. The geometry and uplift rates of the anticlines constrain a simple trishear fault propagation folding model that inverts for blind thrust ramp depth, dip, and slip. Topographic swath profiles and the steepness index of river longitudinal profiles that traverse the anti- clines are consistent with stratigraphy, structures, aquifer geometry, and seismic reflection profiles. Available focal mechanisms of earthquakes with magnitude between Mw 4.1 to 5.4, obtained from a dataset of the instrumental seismicity for the last 30 years, evidence a clear vertical separation at around 15 km between shallow extensional and deeper compressional hypocenters along the mountain front and adjacent foothills. In summary, the studied anticlines appear to grow at rates slower than the growing rate of the longer- wavelength structure that defines the mountain front of the NA. The domal structures show evidences of NW-verging deformation and reactivations of older (late Neogene) thrusts. The reconstructed river incision rates together with rates coming from several other rivers along a 250 km wide stretch of the NA mountain front and recently available in the literature, all indicate a general increase from Middle to Late Pleistocene. This suggests focusing of deformation along a deep structure, as confirmed by the deep compressional seismicity. The maximum rate is however not constant along the mountain front, but varies from 0.2 mm/yr in the west to more than 2.2 mm/yr in the eastern sector, suggesting a similar (eastward-increasing) trend of the apenninic subduction.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Ponza, Alessio
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze della terra e dell'ambiente
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Tectonic Geomorphology Northern Apennines mountain front
Data di discussione
9 Aprile 2010

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