A review of Alpine tectonics in Portugal: Foreland detachment in basement and cover rocks

A. Ribeiro, M. C. Kullberg, J. C. Kullberg, G. Manuppella, S. Phipps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


The Alpine foreland in Portugal was deformed by compressional tectonism during the Miocene. In the NNE-SSW oriented Lusitanian Basin, most folds and thrusts in the Meso-Cenozoic cover are oriented ENE-WSW, parallel to the Alpine front in the Betic Cordillera, and verge towards the north-northwest and south-southeast. The thrusts are connected by lateral ramps: most of these are oriented NNE-SSW to N-S and show sinistral movement, and some are transpressional. The lateral ramps result from reactivation of older extensional faults related to crustal thinning of the continental margin. In the E-W oriented Algarve Basin a simpler basin inversion occurred, with older E-W normal faults reactivated as essentially pure thrusts. In both basins Alpine structures formed above décollements in the Hettangian evaporite-clastic complex. Variscan basement was also deformed by ENE-WSW reverse faults during Miocene time. The similarity in orientation and style of the basement structures to those in the cover suggests that they also occurred by detachment, but their larger scale indicates that the detachment is deep and involves much of the crust. Thus, we interpret the Central Cordillera, in which basement rocks are thrust over Miocene sediments on both sides, as a "pop-up" of crustal scale, elevated above downward-flattening faults that dip towards each other and merge into a single deep detachment. Alpine structures in the Iberian foreland are therefore similar in structural style to those of the Appalachian and Laramide forelands of North America and the Alpine foreland of northwest Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-366
Number of pages10
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1990


  • Alpine orogeny
  • basin inversion
  • foreland detachment
  • tectonics
  • Portugal


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