Quantitative analysis of the tectonic subsidence in the Potiguar Basin (NE Brazil)

Juliana A.G. Lopes, David L. de Castro*, Giovanni Bertotti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The Potiguar Basin, located in the Brazilian Equatorial Margin, evolved from a complex rifting process implemented during the Atlantic Ocean opening in the Jurassic/Cretaceous. Different driving mechanisms were responsible for the onset of an aborted onshore rift and an offshore rift that initiated crustal rupture and the formation of a continental transform margin. Therefore, we applied the backstripping method to quantify the tectonic subsidence during the rift and post-rift phases of Potiguar Basin formation and to analyze the spatial variation of subsidence during the two successive and distinct tectonic events responsible for the basin evolution. The parameters required to apply this methodology were extracted from 2D seismic lines and exploratory well data. The tectonic subsidence curves present periods with moderate subsidence rates (up to 300 m/My), which correspond to the evolution of the onshore Potiguar Rift (∼141 to 128 Ma). From 128–118 Ma, the tectonic subsidence curves show no subsidence in the onshore Potiguar Basin, whereas subsidence occurred at high rates (over 300 m/My) in the offshore rift. The post-rift phase began ca. 118 Ma (Aptian), when the tectonic subsidence drastically slowed to less than 35 m/My, probably related to thermal relaxation. The tectonic subsidence rates in the various sectors of the Potiguar Rift, during the different rift phases, indicate that more intense faulting occurred in the southern portion of the onshore rift, along the main border faults, and in the southeastern portion of the offshore rift. During the post-rift phase, the tectonic subsidence rates increased from the onshore portion towards the offshore portion until the continental slope. The highest rates of post-rift subsidence (up to 35 m/My) are concentrated in the central region of the offshore portion and may be related to lithospheric processes related to the continental crust rupture and oceanic seafloor spreading. The variation in subsidence rates and the pattern of tectonic subsidence curves allowed us to interpret the tectonic signature recorded by the sedimentary sequences of the Potiguar Basin during its evolution. In the onshore rift area, the tectonic subsidence curves presented subsidence rates up to 300 m/My during a long-term rift phase (13 Ma), which confirmed that this portion had an extensional tectonic regime. In the offshore rift, the curves presented high subsidence rates of over 300 m/My in a shorter period (5–10 My), typical of basins formed in a transtensional tectonic regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-74
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geodynamics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Backstripping
  • Potiguar Basin
  • Tectonic subsidence


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