Differentiating between gravitational and tectonic faults by means of geomorphological mapping, trenching and geophysical surveys. The case of the Zenzano Fault (Iberian Chain, N Spain)

D. Carbonel, F. Gutiérrez, R. Linares, C. Roqué, M. Zarroca, J. McCalpin, J. Guerrero, V. Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Zenzano Fault scarp has been developed on the top of a 475. m-high erosional escarpment underlain by an upper brittle sequence and a lower halite-bearing evaporitic formation. The 1850. m-long fault, with a maximum displacement of 45. m and parallel to the escarpment, has offset the back of a dip slope, generating an antislope scarp with prominent triangular facets up to 38. m high and obstructing consequent transverse drainages (defeated streams). Both gravitational and tectonic interpretations were previously proposed for this active surface rupture. The fault scarp has been investigated by detailed geological and geomorphological mapping, geophysical surveys (GPR and ERT) and two trenches excavated across the fault in disrupted drainages. The geophysical profiles clearly imaged the fault, helping to site the trenches and roughly estimate the thickness of the deposits accumulated in the downthrown block. Although the maximum displacement to length ratio (Dmax/L) of the fault fall within the range of tectonic faults of similar length, according to the world database, the geological and geomorphological context, together with several parameters reveal that this structure corresponds to a gravitational failure: (1) anomalously high vertical displacement per event (> 1.4 m); (2) high apparent vertical slip rate (~. 0.6. mm/year); and (3) short recurrence interval of faulting events. The negligible horizontal displacement component on the dip-slip fault, as well as the presence of very large caprock collapse sinkholes and saline springs, strongly suggest that interstratal karstification of the halite-bearing evaporites has played a primary role in the development of the gravitational failure. The formation of this morphostructure has been favoured by pre-existing tectonic faults, erosional unloading related to the removal of an overburden ca. 800. m thick, and enhanced groundwater recharge due to the blockage of the drainage. This work illustrates that the proposed multidisciplinary approach allows the identification of features and calculation of parameters that may help to elucidate whether an active failure has a gravitational or a tectonic origin. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-108
JournalGeomorphology
Volume189
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013

Keywords

  • Defeated stream
  • Fault parameters
  • Fault scarp
  • Interstratal dissolution

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