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Episodes 2022; 45(3): 265-283

Published online September 1, 2022


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Temporal and spatial evolution of orogens: a guide for geological mapping

Camille François1*, Manuel Pubellier1,2*, Christian Robert2, Cédric Bulois2,3, Siti Nur Fathiyah Jamaludin4, Roland Oberhänsli5, Michel Faure6, Marc R. St-Onge7, the IGCP 667 Team8

1 Commission for the Geological Map of the World, France
2 Laboratoire de Géologie, CNRS UMR 8538, École Normale Supérieure, PSL University, France
3 Université Côte d’Azur, IRD, CNRS, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Géoazur, 06560 Valbonne, France
4 Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Malaysia
5 Potsdam University, Germany
6 Université Orléans, CNRS, BRGM, ISTO, UMR 7327, F-45071 Orléans, France
7 Geological Survey of Canada, 601 Booth Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E8, Canada
8 https://ccgm.org/en/content/11-team

Correspondence to:E-mail: c.francois.geology@orange.fr, manupub.pubellier@gmail.com

Received: March 18, 2021; Revised: August 29, 2021; Accepted: August 29, 2021

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Orogens develop in convergent settings involving two or more continental and/or oceanic plates. They are traditionally defined as zones of crustal deformation associated with mountain building resulting from either accretion of a terrane and/or an arc, continent-continent collision or rift-inversion. However, this definition does not consider the genetic link between an oceanic domain and an intracontinental rift, even though extension associated with a scissor-shape opening can be demonstrated in many oceanfloored basins. Consequently, we propose a new concept of orogenic evolution based on the development of extensional margins subsequently subjected to crustal shortening. Thus orogens that develop as a result of the closure of wide basins, are distinguished from mountain belts developed above subduction zones or that result from continental collision and inverted intra-continental rifts. Our review of several key orogens identifies similarities and differences in geodynamic processes through geological time including prior to the onset of plate tectonics ca. 2.5 Ga. We propose that mapping based on comparative tectonics is a good way to constrain such an evolution, and that this can start with a global-scale map of past-to-modern orogens aimed at re-exploring mountain building concepts spatially and temporarily. This is the primary objective of IGCP 667 project “World Map of Orogens”.