Rapid late Miocene rise of the Bolivian Altiplano: Evidence for removal of mantle lithosphere

Carmala N. Garzione, Peter Molnar, Julie C. Libarkin, Bruce J. MacFadden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

311 Scopus citations


The oxygen isotopic compositions of carbonates deposited in the northern Altiplano demonstrate a rapid change in late Miocene time, which we attribute to an increase in elevation. Rainfall samples over an elevation transect adjacent to the Altiplano of northern Bolivia display a systematic decrease in mean annual δ18O values and define a local δ18O vs. altitude gradient [R. Gonfiantini, M.-A. Roche, J.-C. Olivry, J.-C. Fontes, G.M. Zuppi, The altitude effect on the isotopic composition of tropical rains, Chem. Geol. 181 (2001) 147-167.], which we apply to paleo-meteoric water values determined from carbonates. Age constraints from magnetostragraphy and paleoelevation estimates suggest surface uplift of ∼2.5 to 3.5 km occurred between ∼10.3 Ma and 6.8 ± 0.4 Ma, when the Altiplano rose to its current elevation. Only the removal of dense eclogitic lower crust and mantle lithosphere can generate a change of this magnitude and rapidity. This change coincides with an ∼30% decrease in the rate of convergence between the South America and Nazca plates and the propagation of deformation into the eastern Subandean zone, which we infer to have resulted from the increase in the force per unit length applied by the elevated Andean plateau to the surrounding lowlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-556
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 31 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Altiplano
  • Lithosphere removal
  • Oxygen isotopes
  • Paleoelevation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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