Dynamics of the Polish and Eastern Slovakian parts of the Carpathian accretionary wedge: insights from palaeostress analyses
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The arcuate Outer Carpathian accretionary wedge formed in front of the East Alpine-Carpathian-Pannonian (ALCAPA) megablock during the Eocene-Sarmatian. The wedge accreted sediments of the subducting remnants of the Carpathian Flysch Basin, a large oceanic tract left in front of the Alpine orogen. The palaeostress data for the orogenic hinterland (particularly the data related to the Early Miocene extension that was expanding towards the NE), combined with coeval subduction-related volcanism that was expanding towards the NE, indicate that the uneven roll-back of the subduction zone was the main mechanism controlling the development of the northern West Carpathian arc. The palaeostress data for the Tertiary accretionary wedge from the same time period are characterized by outward-fanning σ1 trajectories that changed gradually during the wedge development. In contrast, the palaeostress data for the hinterland are characterized by preferred-directional stress events that changed abruptly during the wedge development. These palaeostress results are in accordance with the behaviour of the wedge and the hinterland, as the wedge behaved as a weak continuum and the hinterland behaved as a block mosaic with weak boundaries. The fault traces of the northern West Carpathian arc converge to both ends of the arc and suggest that the pre-existing basin was the factor that controlled the arc location. These fault trace patterns are asymmetric, indicating a slightly oblique overall convergence in a NE-SW direction. In accordance with this convergence, the palaeostress data for the accretionary wedge indicate that the western part of the wedge, which is characterized by NW-SE-oriented maximum principal compressional stress σ1, was undergoing sinistral transpression. Meanwhile, the eastern part, which is characterized by NE-SW-oriented σ1, was undergoing compression. Apparently, the dynamics of the accretionary wedge was further influenced by the shape of an elongated NE-SW-trending ALCAPA megablock, which was located behind the wedge and advanced in the direction of the general Early Miocene convergence during the most pronounced stages of the wedge development. This megablock served as the local indenter, as its strength surpassed that of the accretionary wedge located to its front. Further dynamic complexities were added because of the complex shape of the Magura Unit, which was located in the most proximal portion of the wedge and was stronger than the units in front of it. Wedge outcrops indicate that the large-scale shortening, which is characterized by the development of detachments and ramps, was preceded by an initial layer-parallel shortening. This is indicated by scaly fabrics and minor reverse faults that rotated into locked positions during the later accretion. Several outcrops with a wedge detachment fault indicate that there was a relatively low amount of friction during its development. The décollement zone is several hundred metres thick and shows evidence of transient fluid flow that was driven by pressure gradients. This is documented by frequent hydrofracturing, sandstone dykes and fibrous veins that opened against the weight of the whole wedge, all of which indicate cycles of higher pore fluid pressures that lowered the basal friction.