The geometry and structural evolution of a crustal-scale Caledonian fold complex; the Ballybofey Nappe, northwest Ireland

Geoffrey Ian Alsop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The gross geometries exhibited by crustal-scale fold nappes are considered a consequence of both original stratigraphic relationships associated with sub-basin configuration, coupled with the nature of the structural regime and tectonic processes involved in the generation of the nappe pile. The Neo-Proterozoic Dalradian metasediments of northwestern Ireland provide a well-constrained and correlatable stratigraphy which defines a sequence of sub-reclined, tight-isoclinal Caledonian (c. 460 Ma) fold nappes. Within this fold complex, the dominant structure is the crustal-scale Ballybofey Nappe, which may be traced for 40 km along strike and is responsible for a regional (500 km2) stratigraphic inversion. The gentle, NE-plunging attitude of this fold results in a complete spectrum of tectonic levels and deformation gradients being exposed. Relatively low strains in the upper fold limb gradually increase down through the nappe, resulting in the generation of composite foliations and lineations and the development of a 10 km thick shear zone which culminates in a high strain basal detachment with underlying pre-Caledonian basement. The Ballybofey Nappe nucleated and propagated along a major zone of lateral sedimentary facies variation, coincident with the margin of a major Dalradian sub-basin. The large amplitude of the nappe is strongly influenced by the lateral heterogeneity within the metasedimentary sequence, and is associated with a minimum of 25-30 km ESE-directed translation concentrated within the overturned limb. Additional significant displacement is also focused along the basal decollement. Generation of the nappe complex resulted in significant crustal thickening and amphibolite facies metamorphism consistent with 15-18 km of burial, induced by a sequence of nappes propagating in the direction of overshear. The ESE-directed translation of the major fold nappes is away from the Caledonian foreland and a gravity-driven mechanism of nappe emplacement is suggested. Rigorous structural analysis within the cohesive stratigraphic framework enables relationships between the tectonic evolution and stratigraphic patterns to be distinguished, thus allowing models of fold nappe generation and mid-crustal deformation to be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-537
Number of pages19
JournalGeological Magazine
Volume131
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1994

Keywords

  • IRISH CALEDONIDES
  • COVER RELATIONSHIPS
  • WESTERN IRELAND
  • DUCTILE THRUST
  • AXES OBLIQUE
  • CENTRAL ALPS
  • DEFORMATION
  • SHEAR
  • SWITZERLAND
  • EXTENSION

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