Tectonic History of the Andes and Sub-Andean Zones: Implications for the Development of the Amazon Drainage Basin

Andres Mora, Patrice Baby, Martin Roddaz, Mauricio Parra, Stéphane Brusset, Wilber Hermoza, Nicolas Espurt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The Andes and the Amazon River have been neighbouring geographical and geological features for at least the past 10 million years. However, the nature of the interactions between them remains unclear. The western margin of South America has been convergent since ~100 Ma, but only during the last 30 million years has there been an adjacent subduction orogen of the extent observed today. Instead, the confi guration of the Amazon River evolved from 11 Ma and has remained largely unchanged at least for the past 6 million years. In this chapter we review the available data on the history of deformation, palaeoelevation and exhumation of the northern Central Andes, Northern Andes and adjacent sub-Andean basins in order to compare these data sets with the evolution of the Amazon drainage basin. The available data are far too scarce to propose defi nitive patterns, but do allow us to pose testable hypotheses on the interaction between the Andes, evolution of sub-Andean zones and the Amazon River. Deformation in the Andes began prior to the establishment of the modern Amazon drainage network and patterns. Although the modern Amazon is very young it appears to be closely related to the development of the Andes. This interrelated history of Amazon River and Andes is inferred from the acceleration in the denudation rates of the Eastern Cordillera, which coincides with the moment that Andean palaeoelevations became signifi cant and began to constitute an orographic barrier and trap to moisture-bearing winds. However, this acceleration could also be related to the development of a denser drainage network in the Andean headwaters. All these factors, together with the presence of orogenperpendicular basement highs, may have prompted a greater and more focused water and sediment infl ux towards the Amazon lowlands, producing a river directed to its present-day delta plains in the Atlantic Ocean. As previously proposed, the synchronous development of intense deformation in the sub-Andean basins appears to be related to changing mechanical conditions in the foreland sedimentary wedge that prompted deformation to migrate to the lowlands.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAmazonia
Subtitle of host publicationLandscape and Species Evolution: A look into the past
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9781405181136
StatePublished - 14 Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Andes and Amazon River - neighbouring geographical and geological features
  • Andes and its relationship to Amazon foreland and Amazon River dynamics
  • Cenozoic shortening history - in Central and Northern Andes
  • Central Andes - studies on exhumation of Bolivian Eastern Cordillera
  • History of Amazon River in regional geological context
  • Northern Peruvian Andes and Ecuadorian Andes
  • Pre-Eocene deformation events and 'Peruvian phase'
  • Surface uplift data in Andes
  • Tectonic history of Andes and sub-Andean zones
  • Vaupés Swell and Fitzcarrald Arch


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