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Keywords:

  • uplifted marine terraces;
  • fault modeling;
  • fault-propagation folds;
  • middle-late Pleistocene;
  • active transpression;
  • Southern Italy

[1] Morphotectonic analysis and fault numeric modeling of uplifted marine terraces along the Ionian Sea coast of the Southern Apennines allowed us to place quantitative constraints on middle Pleistocene-Holocene deformation. Ten terrace orders uplifted to as much as +660 m were mapped along ~80 km of the Taranto Gulf coastline. The shorelines document both a regional and a local, fault-induced contribution to uplift. The intermingling between the two deformation sources is attested by three 10 km scale undulations superimposed on a 100 km scale northeastward tilt. The undulations spatially coincide with the trace of NW-SE striking transpressional faults that affected the coastal range during the early Pleistocene. To test whether fault activity continued to the present, we modeled the differential uplift of marine terraces as progressive elastic displacement above blind oblique-thrust ramps seated beneath the coast. Through an iterative and mathematically based procedure, we defined the best geometric and kinematic fault parameters as well as the number and position of fault segments. Fault numerical models predict two fault-propagation folds cored by blind thrusts with slip rates ranging from 0.5 to 0.7 mm/yr and capable of generating an earthquake with a maximum moment magnitude of 5.9–6.3. Notably, we find that the locus of predominant activity has repeatedly shifted between the two fault systems during time and that slip rates on each fault have temporally changed. It is not clear if the active deformation is seismogenic or dominated by aseismic creep; however, the modeled faults are embedded in an offshore transpressional belt that may have sourced historical earthquakes.