Geophysical Imaging of the Critical Zone along the Eastern Betic Shear Zone (EBSZ), SE Iberian Peninsula

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The critical zone (CZ) represents the most-shallow subsurface, where the bio-, hydro-, and geospheres interact with anthropogenic activity. To characterize the thickness and lateral variations of the CZ, here we focus on the Eastern Betic Shear Zone (EBSZ), one of the most tectonically active regions in the Iberian Peninsula. Within the EBSZ, the Guadalentín Depression is a highly populated area with intensive agricultural activity, where the characterization of the CZ would provide valuable assets for land use management and seismic hazard assessments. To achieve this, we have conducted an interdisciplinary geophysical study along the eastern border of the Guadalentín Depression to characterize the CZ and the architecture of the shallow subsurface. The datasets used include Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), first-arrival travel time seismic tomography, and multichannel analysis of surface waves (MASW). The geophysical datasets combined help to constrain the high-resolution structure of the subsurface and image active fault systems along four transects. The resulting geophysical models have allowed us to interpret the first ~150 m of the subsurface and has revealed: (i) the variable thickness of the CZ; (ii) the CZ relationship between the fault zone and topographic slope; and (iii) the differences in CZ thickness associated with the geological units. Our results provide a method for studying the shallow subsurface of active faults, complementing previous geological models based on paleo-seismological trenches, and can be used to improve the CZ assessment of tectonically active regions.