Three-dimensional characterization of a crustal-scale fault zone: The Pusteria and Sprechenstein fault system (Eastern Alps)
The characterization and representation of fault zones is of paramount importance for studies of fault and earthquake mechanics, since their rheological and geometric complexity controls seismic/aseismic behaviour and fluid circulation at depth. We present a 3D geological model of a fault system, created by integrating borehole and surface structural data, which allows us to bridge the gap between outcrop-scale descriptions and large-scale geophysical models. The model integrates (i) fault geometry and topology, (ii) fault-rock distribution, and (iii) characterization of fracturing in damage zones at the km scale. The dextral-reverse Pusteria and Sprechenstein-Mules Faults (Italian Eastern Alps) provide an opportunity to study fault rocks and damage distribution as a function of host-rock lithology and fabric, and of fault geometry. A first-order control is exerted by the composition of protoliths (quartzo-feldspathic vs. phyllosilicate-rich) and/or by the presence of an inherited anisotropic fabric (massive vs. foliated), resulting in a marked asymmetry of damage zones. Interestingly, the pervasive foliation typical of some protoliths may explain both this asymmetry and the relative weakness of one of the faults. The importance of geometrical factors is highlighted when the damage zone thickness increases five times in proximity to a km-scale contractional jog. On the other hand, the type of fault rock present within the fault core does not show a direct relationship with damage intensity. In addition, the thickness of damage zones along planar fault segments does not appear to grow indefinitely with displacement, as might be envisaged from some scaling laws. We interpret both of these observations as reflecting the maturity of these large-displacement faults.