Cenozoic vertical motions of the Catalan Coastal Ranges (NE Spain): The role of tectonics, isostasy, and surface transport



[1] We analyze the Cenozoic topographic evolution of the Catalan Coastal Ranges (NE Spain) and the role of fault activity, erosion, sedimentation, and isostasy in controlling uplift and subsidence. A forward numerical model constrained by an extensive geological and geophysical data set is used to examine the temporal and spatial record of Cenozoic vertical motions. We show that the effect of isostasy, erosion, and sedimentation is as important as the contribution of fault deformation to the topography of the Catalan Coastal Ranges. The model predicts that Paleogene topography generation by thrusting was compensated by erosion (up to 1.3 km) and isostatic subsidence (up to 1.2 km), resulting in a 1.2–1.9 km high mountain range by the end of compression (29 Ma). During the Neogene, strong tectonic subsidence related to normal faulting and the consequent flexural uplift (of 0.7–1.2 km), surface erosion (as much as 1.6–2.3 km), and sedimentation (up to 4.5 km) led to the present landscape configuration. Extension rates along the Barcelona fault controlled flexural uplift and, in combination with erosion and sedimentation processes, led to the migration of the topographic maximum of the Prelitoral Range toward the easternmost Ebro Basin.