Models of passive margin inversion: Implications for the Rhenohercynian fold-and-thrust belt, Belgium and Germany

Y. Vanbrabant*, J. Braun, D. Jongmans

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    Positive tectonic inversion is related to the transmission of compressional stresses along a décollement into the foreland of an orogenic zone. This stress and strain concentration in regions remote from the main orogenic front is commonly related to the presence of pre-existing rheological heterogeneities such as normal syn-depositional faults. During inversion, these pre-existing normal faults are reactivated as reverse faults. Tectonic inversion in the Rhenohercynian fold-and-thrust belt during the Variscan Orogeny shows that inversion is likely synchronous with the onset of collision in the hinterland. Here, we present the results of a simplified thermo-mechanical model (STM) which allows one to study strain partitioning between two orogenic zones. We show that, if the two orogenic zones have the same mechanical properties, the viscosity of the décollement, which links them, controls the initial strain partitioning. During subsequent finite shortening, erosional processes determine the partitioning of strain rate. The presence of a weak structure in the inverted zone and of a low-viscosity décollement leads to initial strain concentration in the inverted track rather than in the collision zone and a progressive decrease in strain partitioning between the two orogenic zones. The STM results are in good agreement with results of a 2D finite-element model. We conclude that, in the western part of the Rhenohercynian Massif, simultaneous uplift and deformation within the Mid-German Crystalline Rise (the main collision zone) and the Ardenne Anticlinorium (the inverted zone) lead to interpreting this orogenic event as a case of vice tectonic rather than the propagation of a 'wave of folding' towards the Variscan front, as suggested by previous authors.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)15-29
    Number of pages15
    JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2002


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