The role of phyllosilicate fabrics in fault gouge is a poorly understood component of the mechanical and hydrologic behavior of brittle fault zones. We present 90 fabric intensity measurements using X-ray texture goniometry on 22 natural clay-rich fault gouges from low-angle detachment faults (Death Valley area detachments, California; Ruby Mountains, Nevada; West Salton Detachment Fault, California) and the Peramola thrust in NE Spain. Natural fault gouges have uniformly weak clay fabrics (multiples of a random distribution (MRD) = 1.7-4.5, average MRD = 2.6) when compared to phyllosilicate-rich rocks found in other geologic settings. Clay fabric intensities in natural gouges do not vary significantly either as a function of tectonic environment or of dominant clay mineralogy in the gouge. We compare these natural samples with 69 phyllosilicate fabric intensities measured in laboratory experiments on synthetic clay-quartz mixtures. Clay fabric intensities from laboratory samples are similar to those in natural gouges (MRD = 1.7-4.6), but increase systematically with increasing shear strain and normal stress. Total phyllosilicate content does not significantly affect clay fabric intensity. Shear strain is important for developing stronger fabrics; samples subjected solely to compression exhibit uniformly weak fabrics (MRD = 1.6-1.8) even when compressed at high normal stresses (150 MPa). The weak fabrics found in natural fault gouge indicate that if anisotropic and overall low fault zone permeability allow elevated pore fluid pressures and fault weakening, this anisotropy must be a transient feature that is not preserved. Our data also reinforce the idea that clay fabric development in sedimentary rocks is primarily a function of authigenic mineral growth and not of compaction-induced particle rotation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science