Zagros Mountains - Geology

Geology

The Zagros fold and thrust belt was formed by collision of two tectonic plates — the Eurasian and Arabian Plates. Recent GPS measurements in Iran have shown that this collision is still active and the resulting deformation is distributed non-uniformly in the country, mainly taken up in the major mountain belts like Alborz and Zagros. A relatively dense GPS network which covered the Zagros in the Iranian part also proves a high rate of deformation within the Zagros. The GPS results show that the current rate of shortening in SE Zagros is ~10 mm/yr and ~5mm/yr in the NW Zagros. The NS strike-slip Kazerun fault divides the Zagros into two distinct zones of deformation. The GPS results also show different shortening directions along the belt, i.e. normal shortening in the South-East and oblique shortening in the NW Zagros.

The sedimentary cover in the SE Zagros is deforming above a layer of rock salt (acting as a ductile decollement with a low basal friction) whereas in the NW Zagros the salt layer is missing or is very thin. This different basal friction partly made different topographies in either sides of Kazerun fault. Higher topography and narrower zone of deformation in the NW Zagros is observed whereas in the SE, deformation was spread more and wider zone of deformation with lower topography was formed. Stresses induced in the Earth's crust by the collision caused extensive folding of the preexisting layered sedimentary rocks. Subsequent erosion removed softer rocks, such as mudstone (rock formed by consolidated mud) and siltstone (a slightly coarser-grained mudstone) while leaving harder rocks, such as limestone (calcium-rich rock consisting of the remains of marine organisms) and dolomite (rocks similar to limestone containing calcium and magnesium). This differential erosion formed the linear ridges of the Zagros Mountains.

The depositional environment and tectonic history of the rocks were conducive to the formation and trapping of petroleum, and the Zagros region is an important part of Persian Gulf oil production.

Salt domes and salt glaciers are a common feature of the Zagros Mountains. Salt domes are an important target for oil exploration, as the impermeable salt frequently traps petroleum beneath other rock layers.

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