Tectonic features of the incipient arc-continent collision zone of Taiwan: Implications for seismicity

Andrew T. Lin, Bochu Yao, Shu Kun Hsu, Char Shine Liu, Chi Yue Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Southern Taiwan and its offshore area lie in the region where the Luzon volcanic arc initially collides with the rifted China continental margin. Because of the incipient arc-continent collision, the structures vary markedly along-strike the collision zone so as the patterns of seismicity. We use new seismic reflection profiles and integrate existing data to reveal major tectonic features and potential seismogenic faults of the study area. The accretionary wedge in the incipient arc-continent zone can be divided into the lower slope, upper slope, and backthrust domains, respectively. These structural domains reflect different aspects of wedge deformation, and exhibit significant structural variations along-strike. Reflection seismic data show that the prominent seismogenic structures in the Taiwan incipient collisional wedge include: (1) frontal decollement beneath the lower-slope domain, (2) out-of-sequence thrusts bordering the lower-slope and upper-slope domains, (3) megathrust that cuts into the oceanic (?) basement beneath the upper-slope domain, and (4) the Chaochou-Hengchun faults in the onshore upper-slope domain. Thermal regime for those structures indicates that the megathrust and part of frontal decollement are seismogenic. The geometry of the frontal decollement, out-of-sequence thrusts and megathrust is analogous to those observed along the Nankai prism of Japan, so that they are possibly capable of generating great earthquakes as shown in the Nankai Trough. Beneath the lower and upper-slope domains off SW Taiwan, the seismicity is characterized by mantle earthquakes with the accretionary wedge being largely aseismic. We interpret the lack of prominent seismicity within the accreted wedge to result from excess fluid pressure that has significantly weakened the wedge materials and fault zones and therefore results in less seismicity. The predominant mantle earthquakes beneath the accretionary wedge, however, may result from water-enriched mantle materials infiltrated during previous Mesozoic subduction event and later rift events. The volatile contents may have significantly reduced the rigidity of the mantle, leading to the mantle being more susceptible for brittle deformation and hence anomalously high seismicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-42
Number of pages15
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 10 Dec 2009


  • Accretionary wedge
  • Arc-continent collision
  • Decollement
  • Seismicity
  • Taiwan


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