Istituto di Scienze Marine     
Serpelloni E., Vannucci G., Pondrelli S., Argnani A., Casula G., Anzidei M., Baldi P., Gasperini P. Kinematics of the Western Africa-Eurasia plate boundary from focal mechanisms and GPS data. In: Geophysical Journal International, vol. 169 (3) pp. 1180 - 1200. Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
The Western Mediterranean displays a complex pattern of crustal deformation distributed along tectonically active belts developed in the framework of slow oblique plate convergence. We used earthquake and Global Positioning System (GPS) data to study the present-day kinematics and tectonics of the Africa-Eurasia plate boundary in this region. Crustal seismicity and focal mechanisms, analysed in terms of seismic moment release and seismic deformation, outline the geometry of major seismic belts and characterize their tectonics and kinematics. Continuous GPS data have been analysed to determine Euler vectors for the Nubian and Eurasian plates and to provide the global frame for a new Mediterranean GPS velocity field, obtained by merging continuous and campaign observations collected in the 1991-2005 time span. GPS velocities and displacements predicted by the Nubia-Eurasia rotation pole provide estimates of the deformation accommodated across the tectonically active belts. The rather simple deformation occurring in the Atlantic region, characterized by extension about perpendicular to the Middle Atlantic and Terceira ridges and right-lateral motion along the Gloria transform fault, turns into a complex pattern of deformation, occurring along broader seismic belts, where continental lithosphere is involved. Our analysis reveals a more complex fragmentation of the plate boundary than previously proposed. The roughly E-W trending mainly compressive segments (i.e. southwestern Iberia, northern Algeria and southern Tyrrhenian), where plate convergence is largely accomodated across rather localized deformation zones, and partially transferred northward to the adjacent domains (i.e. the Algero-Balearic and Tyrrhenian basins), are interrupted by regions of more distributed deformation (i.e. the Rif-Alboran-Betics, Tunisia-Libya and eastern Sicily) or limited seismicity (i.e. the Strait of Sicily), which are characterized by less homogeneous tectonics regimes (mainly transcurrent to extensional). In correspondence of the observed breaks, tectonic structures with different orientation interfere, and we find belts with only limited deformation (i.e. the High and Middle Atlas, the Tunisian Atlas and the offshore Tunisia-Libya belt) that extends from the plate boundary into the Nubian plate, along pre-existing tectonic lineaments. Our analysis suggest that the Sicilian-Pelagian domain is moving independently from Nubia, according to the presence of a right-lateral and extensional decoupling zone corresponding to the Tunisia-Libya and Strait of Sicily deformation zone. Despite the space variability of active tectonic regimes, plate convergence still governs most of the seismotectonic and kinematic setting up to the central Aeolian region. In general, local complexities derive from pre-existing structural features, inherited from the tectonic evolution of the Mediterranean region. On the contrary, along Calabria and the Apennines the contribution of the subducted Ionian oceanic lithosphere and the occurrence of microplates (i.e. Adria) appear to substantially modify both tectonics and kinematics. Finally, GPS data across the Gibraltar Arc and the Tyrrhenian-Calabria domain support the hypothesis that slab rollback in these regions is mostly slowed down or stopped.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2007.03367.x
Subject crustal deformation
Global Positioning System (GPS)
plate boundary

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