Fission-Track Thermochronology Applied to the Evolution of Passive Continental Margins

  • Mark WildmanEmail author
  • Nathan Cogné
  • Romain Beucher
Part of the Springer Textbooks in Earth Sciences, Geography and Environment book series (STEGE)


Passive continental margins (PCMs) form at divergent plate boundaries in response to continental breakup and subsequent formation of new oceanic basins. The onshore topography of PCMs is a key component to understand the evolution of extensional settings. The classic nomenclature of PCMs is derived from early investigations that suggested apparent tectonic stability after the initial phase of rifting and breakup. However, geological and geomorphic diversity of PCMs requires more complex models of rift and post-rift evolution. Fission-track (FT) thermochronology provides appropriate tools to decipher the long-term development of PCM topography and better resolve the spatial and temporal relationships between continental erosion and sediment accumulation in adjacent offshore basins. FT datasets have revealed complex spatial and temporal denudation histories across some PCMs and have shown that several kilometres of material may be removed from the onshore margin following rifting. Combining these data with geological and geomorphological observations, and with predictions from numerical modelling, suggests that PCMs may have experienced significant post-rift activity. Case histories illustrated in this chapter include the PCM of southeastern Africa and the conjugate PCMs of the North and South Atlantic.



We would like to thank Roderick Brown, David Chew, Kerry Gallagher, Cristina Persano and Fin Stuart for sharing their knowledge and experience in low-temperature thermochronology analysis, thermal history modelling and PCM evolution. We thank Kerry Gallagher for additional constructive comments on this work, and Peter van der Beek and Marco G. Malusà for their constructive and detailed reviews. We are grateful to Bart Hendriks for sharing databases of AFT data, to Lauren Wildman for collating data from additional sources, and to Andrea Licciardi for producing the maps for Figs. 20.5 and 20.6.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Géosciences RennesUniversité de Rennes 1RennesFrance
  2. 2.School of Earth SciencesUniversity of MelbourneVictoriaAustralia

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