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Detrital record of Mesozoic shortening in the Yanshan belt, NE China: testing structural interpretations with basin analysisNormal access

Authors: T.D. Cope, M.R. Shultz and S.A. Graham
Journal name: Basin Research
Issue: Vol 19, No 2, June 2007 pp. 253 - 272
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2117.2007.00321.x
Organisations: Wiley
Language: English
Info: Article, PDF ( 6.34Mb )

The Yanshan fold-thrust belt is an exposed portion of a major Mesozoic orogenic system that lies north of Beijing in northeast China. Structures and strata within the Yanshan record a complex history of thrust faulting characterized by multiple deformational events. Initially, Triassic thrusting led to the erosion of a thick sequence of Proterozoic and Palaeozoic sedimentary strata from northern reaches of the thrust belt; Triassic-Lower Jurassic strata that record this episode are deposited in a thin belt south of this zone of erosion. This was followed by postulated Late Jurassic emplacement of a major allochthon (the Chengde thrust plate),which is thought to have overridden structures and strata associated with the Triassic event and is cut by two younger thrusts (the Gubeikou and Chengde County thrusts). The Chengde allochthon is now expressed as a major east-west trending, thrustbounded synform (the Chengde synform), which has been interpreted as a folded klippe 20 km wide underlain by a single, north-vergent thrust fault. Two sedimentary basins, defined on the basis of provenance, geochronology and palaeodispersal trends, developed within the Yanshan belt during Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous time and are closely associated with the Chengde thrust and allied structures. Shouwangfen basin developed in the footwall of the Gubeikou thrust and records syntectonic unroo¢ng of the hanging wall of that fault. Chengde basin developed in part atop Proterozoic strata interpreted as the upper plate of the Chengde allochthon and records unroofing of the adjacent Chengde County thrust. Both the Chengde County thrust and the Gubeikou thrust are younger than emplacement of the postulated Chengde allochthon, and structurally underlie it, yet neither Shouwangfen basin nor Chengde basin contain a detrital record of the erosion of this overlying structure. In addition, facies, palaeodispersal patterns and geochronology of Upper Jurassic strata that are cut by the Chengde thrust suggest only limited (ca. 5 km) displacement along this fault. We suggest that the units forming the Chengde synform are autochthonous, and that the synform is bounded by two limited-displacement faults of opposing north and south vergence, rather than a single large north-directed thrust. This conclusion implies that the Yanshan belt experienced far less Late Jurassic shortening than was previously thought, and has major implications for the Mesozoic evolution of the region. Specifically, we argue that the bulk of shortening and uplift in the Yanshan belt was accomplished during Triassic-Early Jurassic time, and that Late Jurassic structures modified and locally ponded sediments from a well-developed southward drainage system developed atop this older orogen. Although Upper Jurassic strata are widespread throughout the Yanshan belt, it is clear that these strata developed within several discrete intermontane basins that are not correlable across the belt as a single entity. Thus, the Yanshan has no obvious associated foreland basin, and determining where the Mesozoic erosional products of this orogen ultimately lie is one of the more intriguing unresolved questions surrounding the palaeogeography of North China.

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