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The Geodynamic Evolution of Iran

  • Stern, Robert J.
  • Moghadam, Hadi Shafaii
  • Pirouz, Mortaza
  • Mooney, Walter
Published Article
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
May 30, 2021
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-earth-071620-052109
Annual Reviews


Iran is a remarkable geoscientific laboratory where the full range of processes that form and modify the continental crust can be studied. Iran's crustal nucleus formed as a magmatic arc above an S-dipping subduction zone on the northern margin of Gondwana 600–500 Ma. This nucleus rifted and drifted north to be accreted to SW Eurasia ∼250 Ma. A new, N-dipping subduction zone formed ∼100 Ma along ∼3,000 km of the SW Eurasian margin, including Iran's southern flank; this is when most of Iran's many ophiolites formed. Iran evolved as an extensional continental arc in Paleogene time (66–23 Ma) and began colliding with Arabia ∼25 Ma. Today, Iran is an example of a convergent plate margin in the early stages of continent-continent collision, with a waning magmatic arc behind (north of) a large and growing accretionary prism, the Zagros Fold-and-Thrust Belt. Iran's crustal evolution resulted in both significant economic resources and earthquake hazards. ▪ Iran is a natural laboratory for studying how convergent plate margins form, evolve, and behave during the early stages of continental collision. ▪ Iran formed in the past 600 million years, originating on the northern flank of Gondwana, rifting away, and accreting to SW Eurasia. ▪ Iran is actively deforming as a result of collision with the Arabian plate, but earthquakes do not outline the position of the subducting slab. ▪ The Cenozoic evolution of Iran preserves the main elements of a convergent plate margin, including foredeep (trench), accretionary prism, and magmatic arc.

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