Influence of inherited structural domains and their particular strain distributions on the Roer Valley graben evolution from inversion to extension

Deckers, Jef; Rombaut, Bernd; Van Noten, Koen; Vanneste, Kris

The influence of strain distribution inheritance within fault systems on repeated fault reactivation is far less understood than the process of repeated fault reactivation itself. By evaluating cross sections through a new 3D geological model, we demonstrate contrasts in strain distribution between different fault segments of the same fault system during its reverse reactivation and subsequent normal reactivation.

The study object is the Roer Valley graben (RVG), a middle Mesozoic rift basin in western Europe that is bounded by large border fault systems. These border fault systems were reversely reactivated under Late Cretaceous compression (inversion) and reactivated as normal faults under Cenozoic extension. A careful evaluation of the new geological model of the western RVG border fault system – the Feldbiss fault system (FFS) – reveals the presence of two structural domains in the FFS with distinctly different strain distributions during both Late Cretaceous compression and Cenozoic extension. A southern domain is characterized by narrow (inline-formula<3 km) localized faulting, while the northern is characterized by wide (inline-formula>10 km) distributed faulting. The total normal and reverse throws in the two domains of the FFS were estimated to be similar during both tectonic phases. This shows that each domain accommodated a similar amount of compressional and extensional deformation but persistently distributed it differently.

The faults in both structural domains of the FFS strike NW–SE, but the change in geometry between them takes place across the oblique WNW–ESE striking Grote Brogel fault. Also in other parts of the Roer Valley graben, WNW–ESE-striking faults are associated with major geometrical changes (left-stepping patterns) in its border fault system. At the contact between both structural domains, a major NNE–SSW-striking latest Carboniferous strike-slip fault is present, referred to as the Gruitrode Lineament. Across another latest Carboniferous strike-slip fault zone (Donderslag Lineament) nearby, changes in the geometry of Mesozoic fault populations were also noted. These observations demonstrate that Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic inherited changes in fault geometries as well as strain distributions were likely caused by the presence of pre-existing lineaments in the basement.

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Deckers, Jef / Rombaut, Bernd / Van Noten, Koen / et al: Influence of inherited structural domains and their particular strain distributions on the Roer Valley graben evolution from inversion to extension. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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