A discussion paper by Jean-Baptiste Koehl, titled “Devonian–Mississippian collapse and core complex exhumation, and partial decoupling and partitioning of Eurekan deformation as alternatives to the Ellesmerian Orogeny in Spitsbergen”, is in review for the journal Solid Earth. The scientific community is invited to particpate in the interactive discussion, which is open until 24 February 2020.
In the Late Devonian, Svalbard was affected by a short-lived episode of contraction called the Ellesmerian (Svalbardian) Orogeny, which resulted in top-west thrusting of Proterozoic basement rocks onto Devonian sedimentary strata along the Balliolbreen Fault, a major fault segment of the east-dipping Billefjorden Fault Zone, and juxtaposition of undeformed Mississippian–Permian strata against intensely folded Devonian rocks. The present study of field and seismic data shows that backward-dipping duplexes comprised of phyllitic coal and bedding-parallel décollements and thrusts localized along lithological transitions in thickened uppermost Devonian–Mississippian coals and coaly shales of the Billefjorden Group partially decoupled uppermost Devonian–Permian sedimentary rocks of the Billefjorden and Gipsdalen groups from Devonian rocks during Cenozoic contraction–transpression. In addition, Devonian strata probably experienced syn-depositional, post-Caledonian, extensional, detachment-related folding. Seismic data in Sassenfjorden and Reindalspasset show the presence of Cenozoic duplexes and bedding-parallel décollements within Lower–Middle Devonian, uppermost Devonian–Mississippian and uppermost Pennsylvanian–lowermost Permian sedimentary strata of the Wood Bay and/or Widje Bay and/or Grey Hoek formations, of the Billefjorden Group and of the Wördiekammen Formation respectively, which further decoupled stratigraphic units during Eurekan deformation. Bedding-parallel décollements and thrusts are possibly related to shortcut faulting, a roof décollement of a fault-bend hanging wall (or ramp) anticline, an imbricate fan, antiformal thrust stacks and/or fault-propagation folds over reactivated/overprinted basement-seated faults. Seismic data in Reindalspasset also indicate that Devonian sedimentary rocks might have deposited east of the Billefjorden Fault Zone, thus ruling out Late Devonian reverse movement along the Billefjorden Fault Zone in this area. Based on the present findings, juxtaposition of Proterozoic basement rocks against Lower Devonian sedimentary rocks along the Balliolbreen Fault in central Spitsbergen (e.g., Pyramiden–Odellfjellet) may be explained by down-east Carboniferous normal faulting with associated footwall rotation and exhumation and subsequent top-west Cenozoic thrusting along the Billefjorden Fault Zone. The uncertain relationship of the Balliolbreen Fault with uppermost Devonian–Mississippian sedimentary strata, the poorly constrained nature of the contact (unconformity or bedding-parallel décollements and thrusts?) between Lower Devonian and uppermost Devonian–Mississippian sedimentary strata, and along strike variations in cross-section geometry, offset stratigraphy, and inferred timing and kinematics along the Balliolbreen Fault suggest that this fault consists of several, discrete, unconnected (soft-linked and/or stepping) or, most probably, offset fault segments that were reactivated/overprinted with varying degree during Eurekan deformation due to strain partitioning. Finally, recent evidence for Devonian core complex exhumation and reinterpretation of presumed Ellesmerian structures and of Late Devonian amphibolite facies metamorphism suggest that Ellesmerian contraction is not necessary to explain fault geometries and (differential) deformation within Devonian–Permian sedimentary strata in Spitsbergen.