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A Review of the Dynamics of Subduction Zone Initiation in the Aegean Region
  • Elizabeth Catlos,
  • Ibrahim Cemen
Elizabeth Catlos
The University of Texas at Austin, Jackson School of Geosciences, Department of Geological Sciences

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Ibrahim Cemen
The University of Alabama
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The Hellenic arc, where the African (Nubian) slab subducts beneath the Aegean and Anatolian microplates, has emerged as a type-locality for understanding subduction dynamics, including slab tear, slab fragments, drips, and transfer zones. Based on field evidence and geophysical, tectonics, and geochemical studies, it has been recognized that the subducting African slab is a primary driver for extension in the Aegean and Anatolian microplates and plays a significant role in accommodating present-day westward extrusion of the Anatolian microplate. Thus, understanding the Hellenic arc subduction zone initiation (SZI) age is critical in deciphering ancient mantle flow, how plate tectonics is maintained, and the mechanisms involved in triggering the onset of subduction. The SZI for the Hellenic arc has two disparate ages based on different lines of evidence. A Late Cenozoic (Eocene-Pliocene) SZI is proposed using the analysis of topography combined with estimates of slab age and depth, paleomagnetism, the timing of metamorphism, and volcanic activity, and timing of sedimentation within its accretionary wedge, the Mediterranean Ridge. This age follows an induced-transference SZI model, where a new subduction zone initiates following the jamming of an older subduction zone by buoyant crust due to regional compression, uplift, and underthrusting. A Late Cretaceous-Jurassic SZI age has also been proposed using reconstructions of images of subducted slabs seen using tomography and timing of obducted ophiolite fragments thought to be related to the system. In this case, the induced-transference SZI model fails, and a single subduction zone persists. As a result, continental lithospheric fragments and the ancient oceans between them become incorporated into the overall system without creating a new subduction zone. The presence of a long-lived subduction zone has implications for understanding Earth’s mantle dynamics and how plate tectonics operates. This paper describes and summarizes the evidence for both models in the Aegean-Western Anatolia region.
29 May 2023Published in Compressional Tectonics on pages 87-117. 10.1002/9781119773856.ch4