1887
Volume 33, Issue 6
  • E-ISSN: 1365-2117
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Abstract

Abstract

This contribution investigates the role of a hyperextended rift system in the formation of the Basque–Cantabrian Pyrenees by discussing their present‐day architecture as well as the inherited rift template. Moreover, this work attempts to decipher the onset of reactivation of a hyperextended system and to discuss the related processes during collision. To carry out this study, two regional, crustal‐scale cross‐sections are presented that provide geological and geophysical information and interpretations across the Central and Western Basque–Cantabrian Pyrenees. Moreover, the two sections are restored back to the Cenomanian and Barremian, corresponding to the end of two independent rift stages respectively. The two sections document different structural styles observed along the orogenic belt. The Central section, involving the Iberian and European plates, shows a thin‐skinned structural style, where the Upper Triassic salt acted as a decoupling level between the sedimentary cover and the underlying basement during both extension and reactivation. The Western section, by contrast, crosses only the Iberian plate (i.e., intra‐plate section) and displays a hybrid situation showing both thin‐ and thick‐skinned structural styles that were conditioned by the irregular distribution of Triassic salt. Extensional deformation was localised in the north (i.e., Bay of Biscay) and less important in the south. Despite compressional reactivation, the northern part of the Western section preserves its rift template, which provides key insights to restore the internal part of the Central section. In contrast to the Western section, the Central section shows stacked depocenters, resulting from overprinted Mesozoic rift events that had a first order control on the subsequent reactivation. This study corroborates the importance of rift inheritance during the onset of convergence by reactivating the most distal and weak part of the rift system (i.e., serpentinised mantle) before starting the collision phase. A key learning is that the understanding of the nature and distribution of decoupling levels at a crustal scale is fundamental to reconstruct the structural evolution during the formation and reactivation of a hyperextended rift system.

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