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Nature. 2010 Jun 3;465(7298):602-5. doi: 10.1038/nature09064.

Shaping mobile belts by small-scale convection.

Author information

1
Dipartimento Scienze Geologiche, University Roma TRE, 00146 Rome Italy. faccenna@uniroma3.it

Abstract

Mobile belts are long-lived deformation zones composed of an ensemble of crustal fragments, distributed over hundreds of kilometres inside continental convergent margins. The Mediterranean represents a remarkable example of this tectonic setting: the region hosts a diffuse boundary between the Nubia and Eurasia plates comprised of a mosaic of microplates that move and deform independently from the overall plate convergence. Surface expressions of Mediterranean tectonics include deep, subsiding backarc basins, intraplate plateaux and uplifting orogenic belts. Although the kinematics of the area are now fairly well defined, the dynamical origins of many of these active features are controversial and usually attributed to crustal and lithospheric interactions. However, the effects of mantle convection, well established for continental interiors, should be particularly relevant in a mobile belt, and modelling may constrain important parameters such as slab coherence and lithospheric strength. Here we compute global mantle flow on the basis of recent, high-resolution seismic tomography to investigate the role of buoyancy-driven and plate-motion-induced mantle circulation for the Mediterranean. We show that mantle flow provides an explanation for much of the observed dynamic topography and microplate motion in the region. More generally, vigorous small-scale convection in the uppermost mantle may also underpin other complex mobile belts such as the North American Cordillera or the Himalayan-Tibetan collision zone.

PMID:
20520711
DOI:
10.1038/nature09064

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