The Costa Rica portion of the Middle America Trench (MAT) is characterized by active tectonic erosion, a process that causes the removal of material from the base of the upper plate as the plate boundary migrates upward. Offshore studies demonstrate accelerated subduction erosion starting at the Miocene-Pliocene boundary, as the result of subduction of thickened Galapagos related crust, as presently represented by the Cocos Ridge. The subduction of the Cocos Ridge also caused uplift and exposure of the outer forearc on the Osa Peninsula, which offers a window to explore the tectonic evolution of the area. The rocks outcropping on Osa Peninsula are a middle Eocene-middle Miocene mélange dominated by basalt, chert, and limestone resulting from accretion of seamounts. The accretion-dominated period of the MAT evolution ended at the Miocene-Pliocene boundary, when thickened crust, a paleo-Cocos Ridge, produced at the Galapagos hot spot arrived at the trench. The thick crust caused uplift and severe tectonic erosion of the accretionary edifice allowing exhumation of the Osa Mélange. The change from accretion to erosion caused the outer forearc to be offset along subvertical faults that define small (kilometer to tens of kilometers size) blocks that are going through differential vertical movements in response to the morphology of the subducting ridge. Subduction accretion and erosion are two processes that can alternate in time and space or coexist along the same margin, so that mass removal can develop on a previously growing margin and completely remove an accretionary prism.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology