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Devonian geodynamic evolution of the Variscan Belt, insights from the French Massif Central and Massif Armoricain

Abstract : The Paleozoic French Variscan Belt in Massif Central and Massif Armoricain is a collision belt that provides a good example of a suture zone where ophiolites are rare, and the frontal (i.e., the magmatic arc) part of the upper plate is not present. In the lower plate (or Gondwana), the continental rocks are subdivided into an Upper Gneiss Unit (UGU) and a Lower Gneiss Unit (LGU). The UGU experienced a high-pressure (and likely ultra-high-pressure) metamorphism followed by crustal melting during their exhumation. New chemical U-Th-Pb monazite ages and ion-probe U-Pb zircon ages on migmatites allow us to constrain the P-T-t paths followed by the UGU and LGU. By comparison with thermomechanical experiments, a possible geodynamic evolution scenario can be proposed for the Variscan convergence. The high-compression regime of continental subduction developed during the initial subduction of the northern margin of Gondwana under Armorica in Silurian times. This induced the formation of a new subduction zone in the back-arc basin, which is the youngest, hottest, and thus mechanically the weakest part of the overriding plate. As a result, the arc-back-arc basin domain has been almost totally subducted below Armorica. Only a limited part of the back-arc basin rocks remains exposed in the Devonian St-Georges-sur-Loire Unit. Subsequently, the continental subduction of Gondwana resumed with a steeper dip associated with low-compression regime that in turn allowed the high-pressure rocks to be exhumed and partly melted in Late Devonian times. Such a scheme depicts quite well the complexity of the Variscan Belt.
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Michel Faure, Eugène Be Mezeme, Alain Cocherie, Philippe Rossi, Alexandre Chemenda, et al.. Devonian geodynamic evolution of the Variscan Belt, insights from the French Massif Central and Massif Armoricain. Tectonics, American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2008, 27 (TC2005), 19 p. ⟨10.1029/2007TC002115⟩. ⟨insu-00357006⟩

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