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  1. The accretion of future allochthonous terranes (e.g., microcontinents or oceanic plateaus) onto the southern margin of Asia occurred repeatedly during the evolution and closure of the Tethyan oceanic realm, but the specific geodynamic processes of this protracted convergence, successive accretion, and subduction zone initiation remain largely unknown. Here, we use numerical models to better understand the dynamics that govern multiple terrane accretions and the polarity of new subduction zone initiation. Our results show that the sediments surrounding the future terranes and the structural complexity of the overriding plate are important factors that affect accretion of multiple plates and guide subduction polarity. Wide (≥400 km) and buoyant terranes with sediments behind them and fast continental plate motions are favorable for multiple unidirectional subduction zone jumps, which are also referred to as subduction zone transference, and successive terrane-accretion events. The jumping times (∼3−20+ m.y.) are mainly determined by the convergence rates and rheology of the overriding complex plate with preceding terrane collisions, which increase with slower convergence rates and/or a greater number of preceding terrane collisions. Our work provides new insights into the key geodynamic conditions governing multiple subduction zone jumps induced by successive accretion and discusses Tethyan evolution at a macro level. More than 50 m.y. after India-Asia collision, subduction has yet to initiate along the southern Indian plate, which may be the joint result of slower plate convergence and partitioned deformation across southern Asia.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 18, 2025
  2. The relationships between brittle detachment faulting and ductile shear zones in metamorphic core complexes are often ambiguous. Although it is commonly assumed that these two structures are kinematically linked and genetically related, direct observations of this coupling are rare. Here, we conducted a detailed field investigation to probe the connection between a detachment fault and mylonitic shear zone in the Ruby Mountain–East Humboldt Range metamorphic core complex, northeast Nevada. Field observations, along with new and published geochronology, demonstrate that Oligocene top-to-the-west mylonitic shear zones are crosscut by ca. 17 Ma subvertical basalt dikes, and these dikes are in turn truncated by middle Miocene detachment faults. The detachment faults appear to focus in preexisting weak zones in shaley strata and Mesozoic thrust faults. We interpret that the Oligocene mylonitic shear zones were generated in response to domal upwelling during voluminous plutonism and partial melting, which significantly predated the middle Miocene onset of regional extension and detachment slip. Our model simplifies mechanical issues with low-angle detachment faulting because there was an initial dip to the weak zones exploited by the future detachment-fault zone. This mechanism may be important for many apparent low-angle normal faults in the eastern Great Basin. We suggest that the temporal decoupling of mylonitic shearing and detachment faulting may be significant and underappreciated for many of the metamorphic core complexes in the North American Cordillera. In this case, earlier Eocene–Oligocene buoyant doming may have preconditioned the crust to be reactivated by Miocene extension thus explaining the spatial relationship between structures. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 20, 2024
  3. Abstract

    The factors that control strain partitioning along plate boundaries and within continental interiors remains poorly resolved. Plate convergence may be accommodated via distributed crustal shortening or discrete crustal‐scale strike‐slip faulting, but what controls these differing modes of deformation is debated. Here we address this question by examining the actively deforming regions that surround the Tarim Basin in central Asia, where deformation is uniquely partitioned into predominately strike‐slip faults in the east and distributed fold‐thrust belts in the west to accommodate Cenozoic India‐Asia plate convergence. We present integrated geological and geophysical observations to elucidate patterns in crustal deformation and compositional structure in and around the Tarim Basin. The thrust‐dominated western Tarim Basin correlates with a strongly‐magnetic lower crust, whereas strike‐slip faulting along the eastern margins of the Tarim Basin lack such magnetic signals. We suggest that the lower crust of the western Tarim is more mafic and stronger than in the east, which impacts intra‐plate strain partitioning. A stronger lower crust results in vertical decoupling to drive mid‐crust horizontal detachments and facilitate thrust faulting, whereas a more homogenized crust favored vertical transcrustal strike‐slip faulting. These rheological differences likely originated from the impingement of the Permian Tarim plume focused in the west. A comparison with the Longmen Shan of eastern Tibetan Plateau reveals remarkably similar strain partitioning that correlates with variations in foreland rheology. Our results highlight how variations in lower‐crust viscosity impact strain partitioning in an intra‐plate setting and how plume processes exert a strong control on later continental tectonic processes.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2024
  4. Eclogite bodies exposed across Tibet record a history of subduction-collision events that preceded growth of the Tibetan Plateau. Deciphering the time-space patterns of eclogite generation improves our knowledge of the preconditions for Cenozoic orogeny in Tibet and broader eclogite formation and/or exhumation processes. Here we report the discovery of Permo-Triassic eclogite in northern Tibet. U-Pb zircon dating and thermobarometry suggest eclogite-facies metamorphism at ca. 262–240 Ma at peak pressures of ∼2.5 GPa. Inherited zircons and geochemistry show the eclogite was derived from an upper-plate continental protolith, which must have experienced subduction erosion to transport the protolith mafic bodies to eclogite-forming conditions. The Dabie eclogites to the east experienced a similar history, and we interpret that these two coeval eclogite exposures formed by subduction erosion of the upper plate and deep trench burial along the same ∼3000-km-long north-dipping Permo-Triassic subduction complex. We interpret the synchroneity of eclogitization along the strike length of the subduction zone to have been driven by accelerated plate convergence due to ca. 260 Ma Emeishan plume impingement. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 28, 2024
  5. Fold-and-thrust belts are structural features that accommodate upper-crustal shortening by the growth of a series of thrust faults and folds. Recent studies show that a better understanding of the structure and sedimentation styles of fold-and-thrust belts and their associated basins can provide crucial insights for improved interpretations of the evolution of ancient and modern convergent margins and the mechanisms of intracontinental deformation. To achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the development of contractional orogenic belts, this thematic collection gathers contributions that explore different types of fold-and-thrust belts at various scales around the world, via different approaches including theory development, structural and stratigraphic observations from the field, geophysical analyses, and numerical modelling. Case studies include the northern margin of the Tibetan plateau and Pamir region, the Timanian and Caledonian orogenies in northern Norway, orogenic belts in western Laurentia, and the Andes of western South America. These studies reemphasize the importance of integrating broad datasets when documenting the distribution, geometry, and kinematics of structures in fold-and-thrust belts and their associated basins, including field-based structural observations, provenance, low-temperature thermochronologic, geomorphologic, and subsurface data, and analog and numerical models. This thematic collection aims to encourage further efforts for comparative studies of the fold-and-thrust belts around the world and proposes interdisciplinary research to address outstanding questions in the study of contractional orogens. Thematic collection: This article is part of the Fold-and-thrust belts collection available at: 
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  6. Abstract

    The occurrence of plate tectonic processes on Earth during the Paleoproterozoic is supported by ca. 2.2–1.8 Ga subduction‐collision orogens associated with the assembly of the Columbia‐Nuna supercontinent. Subsequent supercontinent breakup is evidence by global ca. 1.8–1.6 Ga large igneous provinces. The North China craton is notable for containing Paleoproterozoic orogens along its margins, herein named the Northern Margin orogen, yet the nature and timing of orogenic and extensional processes of these orogens and their role in the supercontinent cycle remain unclear. In this contribution, we present new field observations, U‐Pb zircon and baddeleyite geochronology dates, and major/trace‐element and isotope geochemical analyses from the northern margin of the North China craton that detail its Paleoproterozoic tectonic and magmatic history. Specifically, we record the occurrence of ca. 2.2–2.0 Ga magmatic arc rocks, ca. 1.9–1.88 Ga tectonic mélange and mylonitic shear zones, and folded lower Paleoproterozoic strata. These rocks were affected by ca. 1.9–1.8 Ga granulite‐facies metamorphism and ca. 1.87–1.78 Ga post‐collisional, extension‐related magmatism along the cratonal northern margin. We interpret that the generation and emplacement of these rocks, and the coupled metamorphic and magmatic processes, were related to oceanic subduction and subsequent continent‐continent collision during the Paleoproterozoic. The occurrence of ca. 1.77–1.73 Ga mafic dykes and ca. 1.75 Ga mylonitic shear zones along the northern margin of the North China craton may have been related to a regional mantle plume event. Our results are consistent with modern style plate tectonics, including oceanic subduction‐related plate convergence and continent‐continent collision, operating in the Paleoproterozoic.

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  7. Deformation-resistant cratons comprise >60% of the continental landmass on Earth. Because they were formed mostly in the Archean to Mesoproterozoic, it remains unclear if cratonization was a process unique to early Earth. We address this question by presenting an integrated geological-geophysical data set from the Tarim region of central Asia. This data set shows that the Tarim region was a deformable domain from the Proterozoic to early Paleozoic, but deformation ceased after the emplacement of a Permian plume despite the fact that deformation continued to the north and south due to the closure of the Paleo-Asian and Tethyan Oceans. We interpret this spatiotemporal correlation to indicate plume-driven welding of the earlier deformable continents and the formation of Tarim’s stable cratonic lithosphere. Our work highlights the Phanerozoic plume-driven cratonization process and implies that mantle plumes may have significantly contributed to the development of cratons on early Earth. 
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  8. Abstract High-pressure metamorphic rocks occur as distinct belts along subduction zones and collisional orogens or as isolated blocks within orogens or mélanges and represent continental materials that were subducted to deep depths and subsequently exhumed to the shallow crust. Understanding the burial and exhumation processes and the sizes and shapes of the high-pressure blocks is important for providing insight into global geodynamics and plate tectonic processes. The South Beishan orogen of northwestern China is notable for the exposure of early Paleozoic high-pressure (HP), eclogite-facies metamorphic rocks, yet the tectonism associated with the HP metamorphism and mechanism of exhumation are poorly understood despite being key to understanding the tectonic evolution of the larger Central Asian Orogenic System. To address this issue, we examined the geometries, kinematics, and overprinting relationships of structures and determined the temperatures and timings of deformation and metamorphism of the HP rocks of the South Beishan orogen. Geochronological results show that the South Beishan orogen contains ca. 1.55–1.35 Ga basement metamorphic rocks and ca. 970–866 Ma granitoids generated during a regional tectono-magmatic event. Ca. 500–450 Ma crustal thickening and HP metamorphism may have been related to regional contraction in the South Beishan orogen. Ca. 900–800 Ma protoliths experienced eclogite-facies metamorphism (~1.2–2.1 GPa and ~700–800 °C) in thickened lower crust. These HP rocks were subsequently exhumed after ca. 450 Ma to mid-crustal depths in the footwall of a regional detachment fault during southeast-northwest–oriented crustal extension, possibly as the result of rollback of a subducted oceanic slab. Prior to ca. 438 Ma, north-south–oriented contraction resulted in isoclinal folding of the detachment fault and HP rocks. Following this contractional phase in the middle Mesozoic, the South Beishan orogen experienced thrusting interpreted to be the response to the closure of the Tethyan and Paleo-Asian Ocean domains. This contractional phase was followed by late Mesozoic extension and subsequent surface erosion that controlled exhumation of the HP rocks. 
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  9. Crustal thickening has been a key process of collision-induced Cenozoic deformation along the Indus-Yarlung suture zone, yet the timing, geometric relationships, and along-strike continuities of major thrusts, such as the Great Counter thrust and Gangdese thrust, remain inadequately understood. In this study, we present findings of geologic mapping and thermo- and geochronologic, geochemical, microstructural, and geothermobarometric analyses from the easternmost Indus-Yarlung suture zone exposed in the northern Indo-Burma Ranges. Specifically, we investigate the Lohit and Tidding thrust shear zones and their respective hanging wall rocks of the Lohit Plutonic Complex and Tidding and Mayodia mélange complexes. Field observations are consistent with ductile deformation concentrated along the top-to-the-south Tidding thrust shear zone, which is in contrast to the top-to-the-north Great Counter thrust at the same structural position to the west. Upper amphibolite-facies metamorphism of mélange rocks at ∼9−10 kbar (∼34−39 km) occurred prior to ca. 36−30 Ma exhumation during slip along the Tidding thrust shear zone. To the north, the ∼5-km-wide Lohit thrust shear zone has a subvertical geometry and north-side-up kinematics. Cretaceous arc granitoids of the Lohit Plutonic Complex were emplaced at ∼32−40 km depth in crust estimated to be ∼38−52 km thick at that time. These rocks cooled from ca. 25 Ma to 10 Ma due to slip along the Lohit thrust shear zone. We demonstrate that the Lohit thrust shear zone, Gangdese thrust, and Yarlung-Tsangpo Canyon thrust have comparable hanging wall and footwall rocks, structural geometries, kinematics, and timing. Based on these similarities, we interpret that these thrusts formed segments of a laterally continuous thrust system, which served as the preeminent crustal thickening structure along the Neotethys-southern Lhasa terrane margin and exhumed Gangdese lower arc crust in Oligocene−Miocene time. 
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