Cenozoic dynamic evolution of the Polish Platform

Marek Jarosiński, Paweł Poprawa, Peter A. Ziegler


The Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the Polish Platform reflects repeated changes in loading conditions at the Alpine-Carpathian and Arctic-North Atlantic margins of the European continent. After the Late Cretaceous-Paleocene main phase of the Mid-Polish Basin inversion, a second phase of limited uplift of the Mid-Polish Swell occurred during the Middle-Late Eocene. End Eocene and Early Oligocene subsidence of narrow grabens on the Fore-Sudetic Monocline was coeval with normal faulting in the East Alpine foredeep basin and the development of the Central European rift system. At the same time the Outer Carpathian flysch basins were rearranged, presumably in response to the build-up of compressional stresses at crustal levels, whilst subsidence and erosion patterns changed in the Carpathian Foreland from being dominated by the NW-SE trending Mid-Polish Swell to being controlled by the development of the W-E trending Meta-Carpathian Swell. At the end of the Oligocene the Fore-Sudetic graben system propagated into the area of the Trans-European Suture Zone and the Sudetes and remained active during the Early and Middle Miocene. This was paralleled by intensified subduction activity and thrusting of the Carpathians and the development of their flexural foredeep basin. A short early Sarmatian episode of basement involving transpression along the SW margin of the Mid-Polish Swell correlates with the termination of north-directed nappe transport in the Outer Carpathians. This was followed by eastward migration of the subsidence centre of the Carpathian Foredeep Basin and the gradual termination of tectonic activity in the grabens of the Polish Lowlands. After a period of post-orogenic relaxation the present-day compressional stress regime built up during the Pliocene and Quaternary. Intensified ridge push forces exerted on the Arctic-North Atlantic passive margins contribute to this compressional stress field that is dominated by collision-related stresses reflecting continued indentation of the Adriatic Block. This sequence of events is interpreted in terms of changing tectonic loads in the Carpathians, Alps and at the NW passive margin of Europe. The complex and diachronous interaction of mechanically coupled and uncoupled plates along collision zones probably underlies the temporally varying response of the Carpathian Foreland that in addition was complicated by the heterogeneous structure of its lithosphere. Progressively increasing ridge push on the passive margin played a secondary role in the stress differentiation of the study area.


Carpathians; foreland plate; Cenozoic; geodynamics; stress field

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