Structure and Deformation History of the Rapidly Growing Tainan Anticline at the Deformation Front of the Taiwan Mountain Belt

Maryline Le Béon, Odin Marc, John Suppe, Mong Han Huang, Shiuh Tsann Huang, Wen Shan Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This study aims at further documenting the mechanisms of shortening at the front of fold-and-thrust belts. We focus on an actively growing anticline located at the deformation front of the Taiwan fold-and-thrust belt. Based on a multidisciplinary approach combining mainly subsurface data and geodetic techniques, we show that the Tainan anticline is a pure-shear fault-bend fold growing above a 38–45° west dipping back thrust, the Houchiali fault, rooted on a 3.8-km-deep detachment. The cumulative shortening is estimated at 2–3 km since 310 ± 50 ka, including ~30–50% of horizontal compaction shortening. The significance of the fold is little in terms of total shortening at the scale of the mountain piedmont, yet the Holocene shortening rate of 10.3 ± 1.0 mm/a accounts for 25% of the present-day shortening rate across the piedmont. Earthquake scaling relationships applied to the Houchiali fault predict Mw~6 earthquakes that would occur a lot more frequently than indicated from historical earthquake catalogs. Hence, the aseismic slip behavior observed from geodetic measurements since two decades is a representative behavior of the fault at least at the scale of a few centuries. Our results bear out the dominance of pure-shear folding at the front of fold-and-thrust belts and support horizontal compaction as a significant shortening mechanism. In contrast, the back thrust wedge structure and the aseismic slip are peculiar characteristics that likely arise from the combination of low friction and high-pore pressure related to the thick mudstone formation hosting the wedge and of high syntectonic sedimentation rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3311-3334
Number of pages24
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • Taiwan
  • active folding
  • fault-bend folding
  • fold-and-thrust belt
  • seismic reflection


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