Variscan inheritance induces Alpine upper crustal delamination in East Spanish–Portuguese Central System

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De Vicente Muñoz, Gerardo
Olaiz Campos, Antonio José
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The Spanish–Portuguese Central System (SPCS) is an Alpine Mountain range with crystalline basement characterised by a two-layer rheological structure. This structure formed after primary (protolith) and secondary (tectonometamorphic) processes during the extensional collapse of the Variscan Orogen. The SPCS structure is usually controlled by foreland-directed thrusts and strike-slip faults. However, the eastern SPCS is dominated by NW-directed, imbricate backthrusts and lacks the main thrust directed to the foreland basin located southeast of the mountain range (Madrid Cenozoic Basin). The SPCS exhibits a crustal root (> 40 km depth) supporting SE-directed crustal-scale thrusting. Alpine backthrusts sole into an SE-dipping décollement within the Variscan basement. Variscan extension-related structures parallel the SE-dipping geometry of Alpine backthrusts, so they provided favourably oriented rheological weaknesses to accommodate Alpine shortening. Backthrusts geometry, their hanging wall position within the fault that raised the SPCS and gravity modelling support an Alpine crustal delamination process. Tectonic wedging and delamination of the more competent basement occurred in the footwall of Variscan extensional faults (Daurius domain), which enforced the shearing off of a rheologically weaker upper layer of the crust, located in the hanging wall of the Variscan extensional faults (Arriaca domain) by inverting Variscan extensional faults. This led to NW-directed incipient continental subduction of the weaker crust. Intraplate subduction and crustal delamination can be independent from lithosphere-scale inheritance and be conditioned by structural inheritance in the overlying crust. Alpine shortening for the Cretaceous cover is around 17.7 km (10.5% shortening), and 11 km (7%) for the upper-lower crust limit.