Geometry and distribution of regional joint sets in a non-homogeneous stress field: case study in the Ebro Basin (Spain)
Three regional joint sets striking N–S, E–W and WNW–ESE affect the Tertiary rocks of the central Ebro basin. From analysis of their chronological relationships and spatial distribution, it is concluded that they correspond to two different tectonic events. The N–S set (oldest) and the E–W set (younger) are present in the southern and central sectors, while the WNW–ESE joint set predominates in the northern one. The N–S joints propagated in response to joint-normal and fluid loads under an intraplate stress field with SHmax oriented near N–S (related to forces caused by the convergence of Africa, Iberia and Europe and rifting at the Valencia trough) during the sedimentary infilling of the basin. These joints are only present in the southern part of the area. The E–W joint set in the southern-central sector records the same fracturing event as the WNW–ESE set does in the northern one. Its orientation was modified by the presence of the older N–S set in the south, which perturbed the regional stress field. The younger WNW–ESE and E–W joint sets are interpreted as unloading joints. These propagated as a consequence of flexural uplift and exhumation related to isostatic rebound at the Pyrenees and the Ebro foreland basin. A numerical approach is used to explain the inhomogeneous distribution of the N–S joint set in terms of their absence being controlled by the depth of the water table at the time of their formation.
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