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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Professor Robert Holdsworth

Dempsey, E.D., Holdsworth, R.E., Imber, J., Bistacchi, A. & Di Toro, G. (2014). A geological explanation for intraplate earthquake clustering complexity: the zeolite-bearing fault/fracture networks in the Adamello Massif (Southern Italian Alps). Journal of Structural Geology 66: 58-74.

Author(s) from Durham


Interconnected networks of faults and veins filled with hydrothermal minerals such as zeolite are widespread in many orogenic terrains. These fractures commonly form at relatively low temperatures (e.g. < 200°C) late in the tectonic history and represent significant phases of fluid flow and mineralisation during exhumation. Zeolite-bearing fractures spatially associated with the Gole Larghe Fault Zone in the Southern Italian Alps are preserved along an interconnected network of variably orientated pre-existing structures. They show evidence of repeated episodes of hydraulic tensile fracturing and small magnitude (total offsets <5m) shear displacements. We use geological observations and Coulomb stress modelling to propose that repeated seismogenic rupturing of larger offset faults led to local stress transfer and reactivation of widely distributed smaller pre-existing structures in the wall rocks. The differing orientations of the pre-existing features within what is assumed to have been a single regional stress field led to the simultaneous development of reverse, strike-slip and extensional faults. The kinematic diversity and cyclic nature of the hydraulically-assisted deformation suggest that the mineralised fracture systems represent a geological manifestation of intraplate micro-earthquake clusters associated with fluid migration episodes in the upper crust. Our observations highlight the role of crustal fluids and structural reactivation during earthquakes.