Impact of erosion and décollements on large-scale faulting and folding in orogenic wedges: analogue models and case studies
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Deformation mechanisms, long-term kinematics and evolution of fold and thrust belts subjected to erosion are studied through 2D analogue experiments involving large convergence. First-order parameters tested include (1) décollements and/or plastic layers interbedded at different locations within analogue materials and (2) synconvergence surface erosion. Weak layers, depending on their location in the model, favour deformation partitioning characterized by the simultaneous development of underplating domains in the inner part of the wedge (basal accretion) and frontal accretion where the wedge grows forward. Interaction between tectonics and surface processes influences this behaviour. Development of antiformal thrust stacks controlled by underplating shows small- and large-scale cyclicity. Thin plastic layers induce folding processes, which are studied at wedge scale. Recumbent and overturned folds, with large inverted limbs, develop in a shear-induced asymmetric deformation regime via progressive unrolling of synclinal hinges. Surface erosion and underplating at depth induce further rotation (passive tilting) and horizontalization of fold limbs. Model results give insights to discuss the mechanisms responsible for the large-scale structures (i.e. antiformal nappe stacks, klippen and kilometre-scale recumbent fold–nappes) encountered in several mountain belts such as the Montagne Noire (French Massif Central), the Galicia Variscan belt (Spain) and the northern Apennines (Italy).