Publication Details

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Title: Unsteady evolution of the Bolivian Subandean thrust belt: The role of enhanced erosion and clastic wedge progradation
Authors: C.E. Uba, J. Kley, M.R. Strecker, and A.K. Schmitt
Publication: Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., v. 281, p. 134‐146.
Publish Date: 2009
DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2009.02.010
PDF: pdf
BibTEX Citation: Uba:2009.bib


The Subandean fold and thrust belt of Bolivia constitutes the easternmost part of the Andean orogen that reflects thin‐skinned shortening and eastward propagation of the Andean deformation front. The exact interplay of tectonics, climate, and erosion in the deposition of up to 7.5 km of late Cenozoic strata exposed in the Subandes remains unclear. To better constrain these relationships, we use four W‐E industry seismic reflection profiles, eight new zircon U‐Pb ages from Mio‐Pliocene sedimentary strata, and cross‐section balancing to evaluate the rates of thrust propagation, shortening, and deposition pinch‐out migration. Eastward thrusting arrived in the Subandean belt at 12.4 ± 0.5 Ma and propagated rapidly toward the foreland unit approximately 6 Ma. This was followed by out‐of‐sequence deformation from ca. 4 to 2.1 Ma and by renewed eastward propagation thereafter. Our results show that the thrust‐front propagation‐ and deposition pinch‐out migration rates mimic the sediment accumulation rate. The rates of deposition pinch‐out migration and thrust propagation increased three‐ and two fold, respectively (8 mm/a; 3.3 mm/a) at 8‐6 Ma. The three‐fold increase in deposition pinch‐out migration rate at this time is an indication of enhanced erosional efficiency in the hinterland, probably coupled with flexural rebound of the basin. Following the pulse of pinch‐out migration, the Subandean belt witnessed rapid 80 km eastward propagation of thrusting to the La Vertiente structure at 6 Ma. As there is no evidence for this event of thrust front migration being linked to an increase in shortening rate, the enhanced frontal accretion suggests a shift to supercritical wedge taper conditions. We propose that the supercritical state was due to a drop in basal strength, caused by sediment loading and pore fluid overpressure. This scenario implies that climate‐controlled variation in erosional efficiency was the driver of late Miocene mass redistribution, which induced flexural rebound of the Subandean thrust belt, spreading of a large clastic wedge across the basin, and subsequent thrust‐front propagation.