The Northern Apennine prowedge exposes two adjacent sectors showing a marked along-strike change in erosion intensity, namely the Emilia Apennine to the northwest and the Romagna Apennine to the southeast. This setting has resulted from Pliocene erosion (≤5 Ma) and exhumation, which have affected the whole Romagna sector and mostly the watershed ridge in Emilia. Such an evolution has conceivably influenced the equilibrium of this fold-and-thrust belt, which can be evaluated in terms of critical Coulomb wedge theory. The present state of the thrust wedge has been assessed by crosschecking wedge tapers measured along transverse profiles with fluid pressure values inferred from deep wellbores. The interpretation of available data suggests that both Emilia and Romagna are currently overcritical. This condition is compatible with the presence in both sectors of active NE-dipping normal faults, which would work to decrease the surface slope of the orogenic wedge. However, the presence of Late Miocene-Pliocene passive-roof and out-of-sequence thrusts in Romagna may reveal a past undercritical wedge state ensuing during the regional erosion phase, thereby implying that the current overcritical condition would be a recent feature. The setting of the Emilia Apennine (i.e., strong axial exhumation and limited erosion of the prowedge) suggests instead a long lasting overcritical wedge, which was probably contemporaneous with the Pliocene undercritical wedge in Romagna. The reasons for this evolution are still unclear, although they may be linked to lithosphere-scale processes that have promoted the uplift of Romagna relative to Emilia. The lessons from the Northern Apennine thus suggest that erosion and exhumation have the ability to produce marked along-strike changes in the equilibrium of a fold-and-thrust belt.
Tectonophysics – Elsevier
Published: Mar 15, 2018
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