The role of salt in fold-and-thrust belts

Dan M. Davis, Terry Engelder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

529 Scopus citations


The style of deformation in thin-skinned fold-and-thrust belts is critically dependent upon the resistance to sliding along the detachment between the mass of deforming sediments and the underlying rocks. Evaporites can provide an extremely weak horizon within which a basal detachment can form and along which only a relatively small shear traction can be supported. Fold-and-thrust belts that form atop a salt layer, such as the Appalachian Plateau, the Franklin Mountains in northwestern Canada, and the Jura of the Alps, among others, share several readily observable characteristics. As predicted by a simple mechanical model for fold-and-thrust belts, a detachment in salt permits a thrust belt to have an extremely narrow cross-sectional taper. In addition, predicted orientations of the principal stress axes over a salt décollement are consistent with the commonly observed lack of a consistently dominant vergence direction of structures within the thrust belt. Other common attributes of salt-basal thin-skinned deformation include the presence of several widely but regularly spaced folds and abrupt changes in deformational style at the edge of the salt basin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-88
Number of pages22
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Oct 20 1985

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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