School of Earth Sciences - Theses

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    Geochronology of Timor-Leste and seismo-tectonics of the southern Banda Arc
    Ely, Kim Susan ( 2009)
    Arc–continent collision is a significant plate boundary process that results in crustal growth. Since the early stages of evolution are often obscured in mature orogens, more complete understanding of the processes involved in arc–continent collision require study of young, active collision settings. The Banda Arc presents an exceptional opportunity to study a young arc–continent collision zone. This thesis presents aspects of the geology and geochronology of Ataúro and the Aileu Complex of Timor-Leste, and the tectonics of the Banda Arc. U–Pb dating of detrital zircons from the Aileu Complex by LA-ICPMS show major age modes at 270–440 Ma, 860–1240 Ma and 1460–1870 Ma. The youngest zircon populations indicate a maximum depositional age of 270 Ma. The detrital zircon age populations and evidence for juvenile sediments within the sequence favours a synorogenic setting of deposition of sediments sourced from an East Malaya – Indochina terrane. Previous uncertainty in aspects of the cooling history for the Aileu Complex is resolved with 39Ar/40Ar geochronology of hornblende. Cooling ages of 6–10 Ma are established, with the highest metamorphic grade parts of the Complex yielding the older ages. Cooling ages of 10 Ma imply that metamorphism of the Aileu Complex must have commenced by at least ~12 Ma. Metamorphism at this time is attributed to an arc setting rather than the direct result of collision of the Australian continent with the Banda Arc, an interpretation consistent with the new provenance data. Geological mapping of Ataúro, an island in the volcanic Banda Arc north of Timor, reveals a volcanic history of bi-modal subaqueous volcanism. 39Ar/40Ar geochronology of hornblende from dacitic lavas confirms that volcanism ceased by ~3 Ma. Following the cessation of volcanism, coral reef marine terraces have been uplifted to elevations of 700 m above sea level. Continuity of the terraces at constant elevations around the island reflects regional-scale uplift most likely linked to sublithospheric processes such as slab detachment. North of Timor, the near complete absence of intermediate depth seismicity beneath the inactive segment of the arc is attributed to a slab window that has opened in the collision zone and extends to 350 km below the surface. Differences in seismic moment release around this slab window indicate asymmetric rupture, propagating to the east at a much faster rate than to the west. If the lower boundary of this seismic gap signifies the original slab rupture then the slab window represents ~4 m.y. of subsequent subduction and implies that collision preceded the end of volcanism by at least 1 m.y. Variations in seismic moment release and stress state across the transition from subduction of oceanic crust to arc–continent collision in the Banda Arc are investigated using earthquake catalogues. It is shown that the slab under the western Savu Sea is unusual in that intermediate depth (70–300 km) events indicate that the slab is largely in down-dip compression at this depth range, beneath a region of the arc that has the closest spacing of volcanoes in the Sunda–Banda arc system. This unusual state of stress is attributed to subduction of a northern extension of the Scott Plateau. Present day deformation in the Savu Sea region may be analogous with the earliest stages of collision north of Timor.
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    Late Neogene stratigraphy and sedimentation across the Murray Basin, southeastern Australia
    Miranda, J. A. ( 2007)
    The Late Neogene sedimentary sequence of the Murray Basin provides an excellent opportunity to examine paleoenvironmental change across southeastern Australia. A detailed stratigraphic analysis of sediments deposited within the basin in the last 10 Ma was undertaken to assess the influence of tectonic and eustatic processes on deposition. Stratigraphic observations and radiogenic isotope analysis reveals the onset of deposition by 7.2 Ma with a transgressive episode that deposited the marine marls of the Bookpurnong Beds. Deposition was restricted to the central and eastern parts of the basin due to the Hamley Fault. In the west, subsurface elevation contours indicate the presence of incised paleodrainage channels above Miocene limestones, which facilitated the formation of a large estuary system at 5.3 Ma. The sediments of the Norwest Bend Formation were deposited within this western region, while further east, the Loxton-Parilla Sands strandplain deposited over 214 coastal ridges. The basal parts of this unit occur as lateral equivalents to the sediments of the Lower Norwest Bend Formation (in the west). Topographic and magnetic data reveal that tectonism was active during this period and resulted in the erosion and truncation of strandlines. Tectonic evidence and an estimated minimum 28,037 year cyclicity between strandline sets, suggests that the Loxton-Parilla Sands strandlines do not represent an unbroken record of glacioeustatic change. The subaerial exposure of these sediments at approximately 3.0 Ma caused the formation of a calcareous karst above the Norwest Bend Formation and a ferruginous and/or silicious cap (the Karoonda Surface) above the Loxton-Parilla Sands. The stratigraphic position of these surfaces are indicative of a regional widespread unconformity. The Douglas-Blackburn paleodrainage system in western Victoria was dammed during the Mid-Late Pliocene by uplift associated with the Padthaway High, which caused the formation of a 400,000 km2 lacustrine system, known as Lake Bungunnia. Topographic analysis indicates that Lake Bungunnia comprised at least four distinct sub-basins with water depths of up to 30 metres, with lake shorelines indicating that active tectonism occurred during this period. The resulting lack of sediment input to the coast caused the formation of the Kanawinka Escarpment, a large erosional scarp along the southern margin of the Padthaway High. The geomorphology of the modern Murray Basin can be directly attributed to the demise of the Lake Bungunnia system. Movement along the Morgan Fault in the west at approximately 700 Ka, resulted in the draining and progressive drying of Lake Bungunnia as a breach was created along the Padthaway High. The Murray River gorge as observed today was incised following this episode. The modern Murray River (and playa lakes such as Lake Tyrell) occupy the lowest elevations along the former sub-basins of Lake Bungunnia. The Late Neogene sedimentary sequence across the Murray Basin illustrates a complex interaction of eustatic and tectonic processes on deposition. Sedimentation within strandline, estuarine and lacustrine systems, particularly in the western Murray Basin, display evidence of significant tectonic control. This highlights the important role that neotectonic processes have played in shaping southeastern Australia.