Geological and Structural evolution of the Eurasia Africa plate boundary in the Gulf of Cadiz Central Eastern Atlantic Sea.

Doctoral thesis OPEN
D’Oriano, Filippo (2010)

Iberia Africa plate boundary, cross, roughly W-E, connecting the eastern Atlantic Ocean from Azores triple junction to the Continental margin of Morocco. Relative movement between the two plate change along the boundary, from transtensive near the Azores archipelago, through trascurrent movement in the middle at the Gloria Fracture Zone, to transpressive in the Gulf of Cadiz area. This study presents the results of geophysical and geological analysis on the plate boundary area offshore Gibraltar. The main topic is to clarify the geodynamic evolution of this area from Oligocene to Quaternary. Recent studies have shown that the new plate boundary is represented by a 600 km long set of aligned, dextral trascurrent faults (the SWIM lineaments) connecting the Gloria fault to the Riff orogene. The western termination of these lineaments crosscuts the Gibraltar accretionary prism and seems to reach the Moroccan continental shelf. In the past two years newly acquired bathymetric data collected in the Moroccan offshore permit to enlighten the present position of the eastern portion of the plate boundary, previously thought to be a diffuse plate boundary. The plate boundary evolution, from the onset of compression in the Oligocene to the Late Pliocene activation of trascurrent structures, is not yet well constrained. The review of available seismics lines, gravity and bathymetric data, together with the analysis of new acquired bathymetric and high resolution seismic data offshore Morocco, allows to understand how the deformation acted at lithospheric scale under the compressive regime. Lithospheric folding in the area is suggested, and a new conceptual model is proposed for the propagation of the deformation acting in the brittle crust during this process. Our results show that lithospheric folding, both in oceanic and thinned continental crust, produced large wavelength synclines bounded by short wavelength, top thrust, anticlines. Two of these anticlines are located in the Gulf of Cadiz, and are represented by the Gorringe Ridge and Coral Patch seamounts. Lithospheric folding probably interacted with the Monchique – Madeira hotspot during the 72 Ma to Recent, NNE – SSW transit. Plume related volcanism is for the first time described on top of the Coral Patch seamount, where nine volcanoes are found by means of bathymetric data. 40Ar-39Ar age of 31.4±1.98 Ma are measured from one rock sample of one of these volcanoes. Analysis on biogenic samples show how the Coral Patch act as a starved offshore seamount since the Chattian. We proposed that compression stress formed lithospheric scale structures playing as a reserved lane for the upwelling of mantle material during the hotspot transit. The interaction between lithospheric folding and the hotspot emplacement can be also responsible for the irregularly spacing, and anomalous alignments, of individual islands and seamounts belonging to the Monchique - Madeira hotspot.
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