The Geology of Switzerland

Pfiffner, O. Adrian (2021). The Geology of Switzerland. In: Reynard, Emmanuel (ed.) Landscapes and Landforms of Switzerland. World Geomorphological Landscapes (pp. 7-30). Springer Nature 10.1007/978-3-030-43203-4_2

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The general picture of the physiographic map of Switzerland reflects the tectonic structure rather directly. Local relief in the Jura Mountains is a direct consequence of folding of the detached Mesozoic strata. The Swiss Plateau mimics the Molasse Basin with flat lying sediments while thrusting and tilting of these strata in the Subalpine Molasse amalgamated these units with the Alps. The Alps exhibit nappe stacks of very different origin. Most of them evolved from pre-Triassic crystalline basement rocks and their sedimentary cover. In many cases the cover was detached from its basement and now forms a nappe stack of its own. The Helvetic nappe system derived from the European continental margin contains nappes of cover rocks displaced over 30–50 km; crystalline basement rocks form large-scale domes. The Penninic nappe system is derived from basins that formed in Mesozoic times between the European and Adriatic continents. They contain far travelled nappes of cover rocks, as well as nappes of basement rocks that were transported over considerable distances, too. In addition, nappes of oceanic rocks outcrop as thin slivers at the top. Post-nappe folding within the Penninic nappe stack is reminiscent of their complex formation history. The Austroalpine nappe system was derived from the Adriatic margin and now forms a horizontal layer as the highest unit in eastern and central Switzerland. This nappe system contains crystalline basement as well as Mesozoic cover rocks and was emplaced early in the Alpine history in a ENE direction. The Southalpine nappe system was derived from the Adriatic margin as well. Here thrusting of crystalline basement with its Mesozoic cover was south-directed. The various Alpine nappe piles led to the amalgamation of very different rock types: continental and oceanic basement rocks, shallow marine carbonates, deep marine clastics and radiolarian chert to name the most important. Landforms and landscapes reflect these differences, in addition to the landforms created by fluvial and glacial erosion.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


08 Faculty of Science > Other Institutions > Emeriti, Faculty of Science
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Tectonics

UniBE Contributor:

Pfiffner, Othmar-Adrian


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology






World Geomorphological Landscapes


Springer Nature




Othmar-Adrian Pfiffner

Date Deposited:

24 Feb 2021 14:41

Last Modified:

24 Feb 2021 14:41

Publisher DOI:


Additional Information:

ISBN 978-3-030-43203-4 (eBook)
ISSN 2213-2104 (electronic)

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Rock types, Tectonic structure, Alpine nappe structure,Jura Mountains, Molasse Basin




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