Assessing the rate of crustal extension by 2D sequential restoration analysis: A case study from the active portion of the Malta Escarpment

Salvatore Gambino* (Corresponding Author), Giovanni Barreca, Felix Gross, Carmelo Monaco, Marc-André Gutscher, G. Ian Alsop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract Tectono-stratigraphic interpretation and sequential restoration modelling was performed over two high-resolution seismic profiles crossing the Western Ionian Basin of southern Italy. This analysis was undertaken in order to provide greater insights and a more reliable assessment of the deformation rate affecting the area. Offshore seismic profiling illuminates the sub-seafloor setting where a belt of active normal faults slice across the foot of the Malta Escarpment, a regional-scale structural boundary inherited from the Permo-Triassic palaeotectonic setting. A sequential restoration workflow was established to back-deform the entire investigated sector with the primary aim of analysing the deformation history of the three major normal faults affecting the area. Restoration of the tectono-stratigraphic model reveals how deformation rates evolved through time. In the early stage, the studied area experienced a significant deformation with the horizontal component prevailing over the vertical element. In this context, the three major faults contribute to only one third of the total deformation. The overall throw and extension then notably reduced through time towards the present day and, since the middle Pliocene, ongoing crustal deformation is accommodated almost entirely by the three major normal faults. Unloading and decompaction indicate that when compared to the unrestored seismic sections, a revision and a reduction of roughly one third of the vertical displacement of the faults offset is required. This analysis ultimately allows us to better understand the seismic potential of the region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-341
Number of pages21
JournalBasin Research
Issue number1
Early online date23 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

The bathymetric data were extracted from Gutscher et al. (2017) and from EMODnet open dataset ( Digital topographic data are from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency ( The authors also acknowledge the use of MOVE Software Suite granted by Petroleum
Experts Limited ( This work is part of the S. Gambino's Ph.D. research project at the University of Catania. Bernard Mercier de Lepinay (GeoAzur,
Université de Nice/CNRS), is also acknowledged for the CIRCEE-HR seismic data processing.
Funding information:
This work benefits from the finding from the University of Catania in the framework of the project “Multidisciplinary analysis of the deformation around active tectonic structures” (responsible G. Barreca) and partly from the MUSE 4D project - Overtime tectonic, dynamic and rheologic control on destructive multiple seismic events -Special Italian Faults & Earthquakes: from real 4D cases to models in the frame of PRIN 2017


  • deformation rate
  • Malta Escarpment
  • seismic profile
  • sequential restoration


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