Planation surfaces as a record of mantle dynamics: The case example of Africa

Abstract : There are two types of emerged relief on the Earth: high elevation areas (mountain belts and rift shoulders) in active tectonic settings and low elevation domains (anorogenic plateaus and plains) characteristic of the interior of the continents i.e. 70% of the Earth emerged relief. Both plateaus and plains are characterized by large erosional surfaces, called planation surfaces that display undulations with middle (several tens of kilometres) to very long (several thousands of kilometres) wavelengths, i.e. characteristic of lithospheric and mantle deformations respectively. Our objective is here (1) to present a new method of characterization of the very long and long wavelength deformations using planation surfaces with an application to Central Africa and (2) to reconstruct the growth of the very long wavelength relief since 40 Ma, as a record of past mantle dynamics below Central Africa. (i) The African relief results from two major types of planation surfaces, etchplains (weathering surfaces by laterites) and pediplains/pediments. These planation surfaces are stepped along plateaus with different elevations. This stepping of landforms records a local base level fall due to a local tectonic uplift. (ii) Central Africa is an extensive etchplain-type weathering surface – called the African Surface – from the uppermost Cretaceous (70 Ma) to the Middle Eocene (45 Ma) with a paroxysm around the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum. Restoration of this surface in Central Africa suggests very low-elevation planation surfaces adjusted to the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean with a divide located around the present-day eastern branch of the East African Rift. (iii) The present-day topography of Central Africa is younger than 40–30 Ma and records very long wavelength deformations (1000–2000 km) with (1) the growth of the Cameroon Dome and East African Dome since 34 Ma, (2) the Angola Mountains since 15–12 Ma increasing up to Pleistocene times and (3) the uplift of the low-elevation (300 m) Congo Basin since 10–3 Ma. Some long wavelength deformations (several 100 km) also occurred with (1) the low-elevation Central African Rise since 34 Ma and (2) the Atlantic Bulge since 20–16 Ma. These very long wavelength deformations record mantle dynamics, with a sharp increase of mantle upwelling around 34 Ma and an increase of the wavelength of the deformation and then of mantle convection around 10–3 Ma.
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Gondwana Research, Elsevier, 2018, 53, pp.82-98. 〈10.1016/j.gr.2017.05.015〉
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François Guillocheau, Brendan Simon, Guillaume Baby, Paul Bessin, Cécile Robin, et al.. Planation surfaces as a record of mantle dynamics: The case example of Africa. Gondwana Research, Elsevier, 2018, 53, pp.82-98. 〈10.1016/j.gr.2017.05.015〉. 〈insu-01534695〉

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