The damage is done: Low fault friction recorded in the damage zone of the shallow Japan Trench décollement
Fault damage zones record the integrated deformation caused by repeated slip on faults and reflect the conditions that control slip behavior. To investigate the Japan Trench décollement, we characterized the damage zone close to the fault from drill core recovered during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 343 (Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project (JFAST)). Core-scale and microscale structures include phyllosilicate bands, shear fractures, and joints. They are most abundant near the décollement and decrease in density sharply above and below the fault. Power law fits describing the change in structure density with distance from the fault result in decay exponents (n) of 1.57 in the footwall and 0.73 in the hanging wall. Microstructure decay exponents are 1.09 in the footwall and 0.50 in the hanging wall. Observed damage zone thickness is on the order of a few tens of meters. Core-scale structures dip between ~10° and ~70° and are mutually crosscutting. Compared to similar offset faults, the décollement has large decay exponents and a relatively narrow damage zone. Motivated by independent constraints demonstrating that the plate boundary is weak, we tested if the observed damage zone characteristics could be consistent with low-friction fault. Quasi-static models of off-fault stresses and deformation due to slip on a wavy, frictional fault under conditions similar to the JFAST site predict that low-friction fault produces narrow damage zones with no preferred orientations of structures. These results are consistent with long-term frictional weakness on the décollement at the JFAST site.