Antartic/Scotia plate convergence off southernmost Chile

A. Polonia, L. Torelli


The southern tip of South America off Chile has suffered a long phase of ocean-continent convergence which has shaped the continental margin through different phases of accretion and tectonic erosion. The present accretionary wedge is a discontinuous geological record of plate convergence and records only part of the accretionary processes resumed after Chile ridge consumption (14 Ma). The structural style of the subduction complex, such as rates of sediment accretion and tectonic erosion, structural vergence, width of the accretionary wedge, taper angle and deformation in the forearc basin, varies along the margin. Large taper values are related to narrow wedges and seaward vergent structures. Low tapers occur where deformation at the toe of the accretionary complex is spread over wide areas and is related both to landward and seaward vergent thrust faults. Seismic data interpretation contributes to define more accurately frontal wedge morphology and geometry of subduction and suggests that different modes of accretion together with tectonic erosion may be active concurrently along the trench at different locations. In areas of subduction driven accretionary processes the majority of trench sediments are involved in accretionary processes and sediments are uplifted and piled up in the form of imbricate thrust sheets. In areas where the wedge is non-accretionary the continental margin shows steeper continental slopes associated with narrow accretionary wedges, more intense sediment disruption and very shallow décollement levels. Variation in structural style and in the geometry of the forearc region setting off Southernmost Chile, has been interpreted as related to the existence of different structural domains: the nature of their boundaries is still unclear mainly for the lack of high resolution bathymetric data. They have been tentatively related to tectonic lineaments belonging to the Magellan Fault system and/or to the character and morphology of the converging plates (lateral heterogeneities, sea-mounts and fracture zones), which produce a segmentation of the margin.


Plate tectonics; Continental margin; Trench; Subduction complex; Tectonic accretion; Marine geology.

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