Using deep seismic reflection data from the Italian lithospheric exploration project CROP in the Central Mediterranean region, a 400-km-long section, composed of three different profiles crossing the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea (CROP M-12A profile), the Northern Apennines (CROP-03) and the Adriatic Sea (CROP M-16) is reconstructed and discussed. New data allow us to outline a seismically consistent tectono-stratigraphic setting for the crust and upper mantle of the Northern Apennines thrust–belt system and its Adriatic foreland. Time–space analysis of the deformation of the investigated chain and identification of existing macrostratigraphic crustal intervals and tectonic units allow a reasonably controlled interpretation of the geodynamic evolution and of the main orogenic stages. Careful seismic reprocessing and application of advanced techniques to key zones of the explored area (such as the Tuscan Archipelago) were determinants in obtaining fundamental information for understanding of the complex lithospheric structures and their evolution. Profile interpretation supports that the Northern Apennine chain is dominated by a compressive thrust system. Crustal extension, assumed by some authors as the dominating tectonic process for the whole Tuscan Apennine area, represents a subordinate geodynamic event of the last stage (Tyrrhenian). In the Early Cretaceous–Late Jurassic, the paleogeographic framework consisted of the Europe and Adria plates separated by the Alpine Tethys Ocean. During the Late Cretaceous–Early Eocene, Adria–Europe convergence (eo-Alpine stage) and subduction beneath the Adria plate closed the Alpine Tethys Sea, with the Tethyan slab being clearly seismically imaged. The first Apenninic geodynamic stage occurred in the Late Oligocene–Early Miocene with the opening of the Balearic Basin, which generated a first “lithospheric root” of the Apenninic chain in the Tuscan Archipelago area. This root is represented by Adria-verging thrust faults that progressively flatten eastward. Upper parts of the west-verging eo-Alpine thrust blocks were truncated by the east-verging thrust faults of the Balearic stage. A deeper seismic reflector, attributed to the top of the asthenosphere, forms a mantle high below the Elba Island. From the Late Miocene to Present, the Corsica basin and western hinterland area were affected by extensional tectonics related to the Tyrrhenian opening, whereas compressional tectonics continued in the eastern hinterland and mostly on the eastward migrating foreland, with development of a second “lithospheric root” constituted by high-angle thrust faults. These faults give rise to a huge basement culmination below the main Apennines watershed. Impressive E-directed gravity-sliding of sedimentary blocks over their sloping basement occur, generating the Umbria–Marche shallow seismicity. Crustal shortening of the Apennines system amounts to 170 km, 14 km of which are due to the eo-Alpine stage, 71 km to the Balearic and 85 km to the Tyrrhenian one. In the frame of Africa–Europe convergence, the Tyrrhenian–Apennines tectonodynamics were mainly conditioned by the Mesozoic paleogeography.
Tectonophysics – Elsevier
Published: Dec 30, 2001
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