loading page

Morpho-tectonics of transpressional systems: insights from analog modeling
  • +1
  • Ethan Mark Conrad,
  • Riccardo Reitano,
  • Claudio Faccenna,
  • Thorsten Wolfgang Becker
Ethan Mark Conrad
University of Texas at Austin

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Riccardo Reitano
Department of Science, RomaTre University, Roma, Italy
Author Profile
Claudio Faccenna
Universita Roma TRE
Author Profile
Thorsten Wolfgang Becker
University of Texas at Austin
Author Profile


Transpressional margins are widespread, and their dynamics are relevant for plate boundary evolution globally. Though transpressional orogen evolution involves a topographic response to deformation, many studies focus only on the structural development of the system ignoring surface processes. Here, we present a new set of analog models constructed to investigate how tectonic and surface processes interact at transpressive plate boundaries and shape topography. Experiments are conducted by deforming a previously benchmarked crustal analog material in a meter-scale plexiglass box while controlling erosion through misting nozzles mounted along the transpressional wedge. We used a laser scanner to generate digital elevation models throughout the model evolution and photos for particle image velocimetry analysis. We focus on three experiments that cover a range of rainfall and convergence settings, with two end-member erosion settings and a dry reference. In all experiments, a bivergent wedge forms, and strain partitioning broadly evolves according to previously established models. Regarding drainage networks, we find that the streams in our models develop differently through feedback between fault development and drainage rearrangement processes. Differences between end-member erosional models can be explained by the varying response of streams to structure modulated by rainfall. Additionally, erosion may influence the structural evolution of transpressional topography, leading to accelerated strike-slip partitioning. From these results, we create a model for developing structures, streams, and topography where incision and valley formation along main structures localize exhumation. We apply insights from the models to natural transpressional systems, including the Transverse Ranges, CA., and the Venezuelan Andes.