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    Structural context and variation of ocean plate stratigraphy, Franciscan Complex, California: insight into mélange origins and subduction-accretion processes

    John Wakabayashi

    Ocean plate stratigraphy, Subduction complex evolution, Subduction megathrust slip accommodation, tectonic and sedimentary mélanges

    Cross sectional cartoon showing accretion of OPS and the connection between this process and the rock assemblages found in subduction complexes, including different types of mélanges. This schematic also illustrates that olistostromes of serpentinite and/or siliciclastic matrix comprise part of the clastic part of OPS.

    The transfer (accretion) of materials from a subducting oceanic plate to a subduction-accretionary complex has produced rock assemblages recording the history of the subducted oceanic plate from formation to arrival at the trench. These rock assemblages, comprising oceanic igneous rocks progressively overlain by pelagic sedimentary rocks (chert and/or limestone) and trench-fill clastic sedimentary rocks (mostly sandstone, shale/mudstone), have been called ocean plate stratigraphy (OPS). During accretion of OPS, megathrust slip is accommodated by imbricate faults and penetrative strain, shortening the unit and leading to tectonic repetition of the OPS sequence, whereas OPS accreted at different times are separated by non-accretionary megathrust horizons. The Franciscan subduction complex of California accreted episodically over a period of over 150 million years and incorporated OPS units with a variety of characteristics separated by non-accretionary megathrust horizons. Most Franciscan OPS comprises MORB (mid-ocean-ridge basalt) progressively overlain by chert and trench-fill clastic sedimentary rocks that are composed of variable proportions of turbidites and siliciclastic and serpentinite-matrix olistostromes (sedimentary mélanges). Volumetrically, the trench-fill component predominates in most Franciscan OPS, but some units have a significant component of igneous and pelagic rocks. Ocean island basalt (OIB) overlain by limestone is less common than MORB-chert assemblages, as are abyssal serpentinized peridotite slabs. The earliest accreted OPS comprises metabasite of supra-subduction zone affinity imbricated with smaller amounts of metaultramafic rocks and metachert, but lacking a clastic component. Most deformation of Franciscan OPS is localized along discrete faults rather than being distributed in the form of penetrative strain. This deformation locally results in block-in-matrix tectonic mélanges, in contrast to the sedimentary mélanges making up part of the clastic OPS component. Such tectonic mélanges may include blocks and matrix derived from the olistostromes. Franciscan subduction and OPS accretion initiated in island arc crust at about 165–170 Ma, after which MORB and OIB were subducted and accreted following a long (tens of mega-ampere) gap with little or no accretion. Following subduction initiation, a ridge crest approached the trench but probably went dormant prior to its subduction (120–125 Ma), after which the subducted oceanic crust became progressively older until about 95 Ma. From 95 Ma, the age of subducted oceanic crust decreased progressively until arrival of the Pacific-Farallon spreading center led to termination of subduction and conversion to a transform plate boundary.