Quaternary faulting in the Tatra Mountains, evidence from cave morphology and fault-slip analysis

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Abstract

Tectonically deformed cave passages in the Tatra Mts (Central Western Carpathians) indicate some fault activity during the Quaternary. Displacements occur in the youngest passages of the caves indicating (based on previous U-series dating of speleothems) an Eemian or younger age for those faults, and so one tectonic stage. On the basis of stress analysis and geomorphological observations, two different mechanisms are proposed as responsible for the development of these displacements. The first mechanism concerns faults that are located above the valley bottom and at a short distance from the surface, with fault planes oriented sub-parallel to the slopes. The radial, horizontal extension and vertical σ1 which is identical with gravity, indicate that these faults are the result of gravity sliding probably caused by relaxation after incision of valleys, and not directly from tectonic activity. The second mechanism is tilting of the Tatra Mts. The faults operated under WNW-ESE oriented extension with σ1 plunging steeply toward the west. Such a stress field led to normal dip-slip or oblique-slip displacements. The faults are located under the valley bottom and/or opposite or oblique to the slopes. The process involved the pre-existing weakest planes in the rock complex: (i) in massive limestone mostly faults and fractures, (ii) in thin-bedded limestone mostly inter-bedding planes. Thin-bedded limestones dipping steeply to the south are of particular interest. Tilting toward the N caused the hanging walls to move under the massif and not toward the valley, proving that the cause of these movements was tectonic activity and not gravity.

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