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Abstract

The Late Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the Mediterranean region, which is sandwiched between the converging African and European continents, is dominated by the process of subduction orogeny. Subduction orogeny occurs where localized subduction, driven by negative slab buoyancy, is more rapid than the convergence rate of the bounding plates; it is commonly developed in zones of early or incomplete continental collision. Subduction orogens can be distinguished from collisional orogens on the basis of driving mechanism, tectonic setting, and geologic expression. Three distinct Late Cenozoic subduction orogens can be identified in the Mediterranean region, making up the Western Mediterranean (Apennine, external Betic, Maghebride, Rif), Central Mediterranean (Carpathian), and Eastern Mediterranean (southern Dinaride, external Hellenide, external Tauride) Arcs. The Late Cenozoic evolution of these orogens, described in this article, is best understood in light of the processes that govern subduction orogeny and depends strongly on the buoyancy of the locally subducting lithosphere; it is thus strongly related to paleogeography. Because the slow (4–10 mm/yr) convergence rate between Africa and Eurasia has preserved the early collisional environment, and associated tectonism, for tens of millions of years, the Mediterranean region provides an excellent opportunity to elucidate the dynamic and kinematic processes of subduction orogeny and to better understand how these processes operate in other orogenic systems.

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2018-05-30
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