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Keywords:

  • active tectonics;
  • crustal deformation;
  • earthquakes;
  • geomorphology;
  • normal faulting;
  • southern Italy

SUMMARY

Integration of geologic, geomorphologic and seismologic data sets is used to reconstruct the recent tectonic evolution and active deformation pattern in the Val d'Agri area, located in the seismically active axial sector of the Southern Apennines (Italy).

The western portion of the Apennines thrust belt has been affected by Pliocene–Quaternary extension during easterly roll-back and crustal delamination of the Adriatic slab. The bulk of Quaternary extension has been accommodated by SW-dipping oblique and normal faults, which have attained mature morphologic and structural features and, nowadays, separate mountain ranges from intermontane basins.

However, in the present seismogenic belt, coseismic faulting locally occurs on NE-dipping structures, which might cut the inherited Pleistocene landscape.

In the Val d'Agri basin, in spite of the large Early–Middle Pleistocene, displacement occurred on SW-dipping faults bordering its eastern flank, our investigations show that the recent basin evolution has been controlled by a NE-dipping fault system (Monti della Maddalena fault system, MMFS). This fault system cuts across the Monti della Maddalena range, west of the Agri valley and has not yet created an evident tectonic landscape.

Notwithstanding, fault motion since the Middle Pleistocene might explain geomorphologic and hydrographic anomalies of the Agri river and its valley, where fault-controlled subsidence has captured the river course and produced an aggrading plain within a regional uplift context. Recent and ongoing motion is documented by fault scarplets in loose deposits, 14C ages of palaeosols and the spatial relation with low to moderate instrumental seismicity. Results from fault kinematic analysis are compatible with fault-plane solutions of local and regional seismic events, and indicate ∼NE–SW oriented extension.

Recognition of the MMFS as a potential seismogenic fault increases the longitudinal extent of the NE-dipping, morphologically immature seismic sources in the Southern Apennines and argues against the range-bounding fault model for active extension in the region. The regional size of the NE-dipping seismogenic belt may result from impingement of a mantle wedge beneath the Apenninic chain and possibly track the external front of crustal delamination.