The Balkan fold-thrust belt, exposed in Bulgaria and north-east Serbia, is part of the north-east vergent segment of the bi-vergent Eastern Mediterranean Alpine orogen. It was formed during two distinct compressional stages; the first one lasted from the Middle Jurassic to the Early Cretaceous and the second from Late Cretaceous to the Paleogene. Although the compressional tectonic evolution of the Balkan fold-thrust belt since the Middle Jurassic and during most of the Mesozoic is relatively well studied, the final exhumation of the rocks of the belt during the Cenozoic has remained poorly understood. Here, we present the first thermochronological constraints, based on fission-track and [U-Th-(Sm)]/He analysis, showing that along the central part of the belt syn- to post-orogenic extension could have started as early as the middle Eocene. Low-temperature thermochronological analysis of samples collected from three areas reveals at least two phases of increased cooling and exhumation during the Cenozoic. The first exhumation phase took place between ~ 44 and 30 Ma and appears to be related to the syn- to post-orogenic collapse coeval with the earliest Cenozoic extensional stage observed across the southern Balkan Peninsula. A period of relative quiescence (between ~ 30 and ~ 25 Ma) is followed by the next cooling stage, between 25 and 20 Ma, which appears to be related to late Oligocene to early Miocene crustal extension across the Balkan Peninsula. Extension accommodated by the late Miocene to Recent age Sub-Balkan Graben System does not appear to have produced exhumation of rocks from beneath 2–4 km depth, as it was not detected by the low-temperature thermochronological methods applied in this study.
International Journal of Earth Sciences – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 13, 2017
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