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Trench investigation along the Mérida section of the Boconó fault (central Venezuelan Andes), Venezuela

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0040-1951(99)00085-2
  • Active Tectonics
  • Paleoseismology
  • Boconó Fault
  • Venezuelan Andes
  • Earth Science


Abstract The Boconó fault is a major NE–SW-trending, dextral fault that extends for about 500 km along the backbone of the Venezuelan Andes. Several large historical earthquakes in this region have been attributed to the Boconó fault, and some of these have been recently associated with specific parts through paleoseismologic investigations. A new trench study has been performed, 60 km to the northeast of Mérida in the central Venezuelan Andes, where the fault forms a releasing bend, comprising two conspicuous late Holocene fault strands that are about 1 km apart. The southern and northern strands carry about 70% and 30% (respectively) of the 7–10 mm/yr net slip rate measured in this sector, which is based on a 40 vs. 85–100 m right-lateral offset of the Late Pleistocene Los Zerpa moraines. A trench excavated on the northern strand of the fault (near Morros de los Hoyos, slightly northeast of Apartaderos) across a twin shutter ridge and related sag pond exposed two main fault zones cutting Late Pleistocene alluvial and Holocene peat deposits. Each zone forms a shutter ridge with peat deposits ponded against the uplifted block. The paleoearthquake reconstruction derived from this trench allows us to propose the occurrence of at least 6–8 earthquakes in the past 9000 yr, yielding a maximum average recurrence interval of about 1100–1500 yr. Based on the northern strands average slip rate (2.6 mm/yr), such an earthquake sequence should have accommodated about 23 m of slip since 9 ka, suggesting that the maximum slip per event ranges between 3 and 4 m. No direct evidence for the large 1812 earthquake has been found in the trench, although this earthquake may have ruptured this section of the fault. Further paleoseismic studies will investigate the possibility that this event occurred on the Boconó fault, but ruptured mainly its southern strand in this region.

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