Postrift stress field inversion in the Potiguar Basin, Brazil – Implications for petroleum systems and evolution of the equatorial margin of South America

Francisco H. Bezerra*, David L. de Castro, Rubson P. Maia, Maria O.L. Sousa, Elissandra N. Moura-Lima, Dilce F. Rossetti, Giovanni Bertotti, Zorano S. Souza, Francisco C.C. Nogueira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Rifting and related normal stress regime in the equatorial continental margin of Brazil ceased during the Late Cretaceous, when the stress regimes in eastern South America and West Africa changed to induce strike-slip or reverse motion. In this study, we explore the postrift tectonic, geomorphic, magmatic, and sedimentary responses to stress changes using the Potiguar Basin, the easternmost basin in the equatorial margin of Brazil, as a case study. We use field and topographic data, 2D seismic reflection lines, vertical electric soundings, and geochronological and borehole data to constrain the stress evolution of the Potiguar Basin from the Late Cretaceous to the Quaternary, discussing the role of basin inversion on sedimentation and landforms. Our results indicate the presence of two strike-slip stress regimes after rifting. The first stress field (SF1) occurred from Late Cretaceous to the middle Miocene and consisted of a N-S-oriented maximum subhorizontal compression and an E-W-oriented extension. The second stress field (SF2) took place from the middle Miocene to the present day and included subhorizontal E-W to NW-SE compression combined with N-S and NE-SW subhorizontal extension. Emplacement of volcanic rocks occurred along transtensional faults, with a principal peak during SF1 at 20–30 Ma and a subordinate peak during SF2 at 5–10 Ma. In response to shortening during SF2, a 70-km-long and 50-km-wide dome formed, where marine Miocene strata were uplifted to ~250 m asl. This uplift induced the displacement of alluvial channels away from the dome. Anticlines formed by transpression along the main NE-SW-striking faults during both SF1 and ST2 acted as traps in the petroleum system. Similar shifts and stress field inversions documented in other areas of the Brazilian continental margin are consistent with the Neogene rise of the Andes and may have implications for reconstructing the tectonic history of the Equatorial Atlantic margin of South America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-104
Number of pages17
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Accepted author Manuscript


  • Basin inversion
  • Equatorial margin
  • Neotectonics
  • Stress field
  • Tectonic uplift


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