EGU24-5274, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Investigating the plate motion of the Adriatic microplate by 3D thermomechanical modelling

Christian Schuler1, Boris Kaus1, Eline Le Breton2, and Nicolas Riel1
Christian Schuler et al.
  • 1Institute of Geosciences, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Mainz, Germany (
  • 2Institute of Geological Sciences, Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany

The geodynamic evolution of the Alpine-Mediterranean area is complex and still subject to ongoing debate. The Adriatic microplate motion is of particular interest as it is influenced by three distinct subduction systems: the Alpine subduction in the north, the Dinaric-Hellenic subduction in the east, and the Calabrian-Apenninic subduction in the west. Additionally the system is influenced by the northward movement of the African continent, which further contributes to the geodynamic complexity of the region.

In this study, 3D thermomechanical simulations of the Alpine-Mediterranean region are performed using the code LaMEM (Kaus et al., 2016). The simulations employ a viscoelastoplastic rheology and an internal free surface to investigate the internal dynamics of the mantle. The initial plate configuration for the simulations is based on the kinematic reconstructions of Le Breton et al. (2021) at 35 Ma. The objective is to identify the controlling factors that drive the motion of the Adriatic microplate. This is achieved by investigating the role of various model parameters, such as the thermal structure of the lithosphere, the geometry and strength of the continental margin, the mantle viscosity, brittle parameters of the crust and the location of crustal heterogeneities.

Results show that Adria undergoes two distinct phases of plate motion over the past 35 million years. Between 35 Ma and 20 Ma, the African plate moves northward, pushing Adria in the same direction. However, once the Hellenic slab rolls back from the east and the Calabrian and Apenninic slabs roll back from the west, the Adriatic microplate decouples from the African plate, resulting in an anticlockwise rotation of Adria. Overall, this study provides valuable insights into the parameters that affect subduction dynamics in the Mediterranean and the independent motion of the Adriatic microplate.

Kaus, B. J. P., A. A. Popov, T. S. Baumann, A. E. Pusok, A. Bauville, N. Fernandez, and M. Collignon, 2016: Forward and inverse modelling of lithospheric deformation on geological timescales. Proceedings of NIC Symposium.

Le Breton, E., Brune, S., Ustaszewski, K., Zahirovic, S., Seton, M., & Müller, R. D. (2021). Kinematics and extent of the Piemont–Liguria Basin–implications for subduction processes in the Alps. Solid Earth, 12(4), 885-913.

How to cite: Schuler, C., Kaus, B., Le Breton, E., and Riel, N.: Investigating the plate motion of the Adriatic microplate by 3D thermomechanical modelling, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-5274,, 2024.