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Tectonics / Structural geology

Enormous forces have always been at work inside our Earth. They continuously deform the Earth’s crust and affect its structural composition. Tectonic maps show how Switzerland is geologically constructed.

North-south tectonic profile through eastern Switzerland
North-south tectonic profile through eastern Switzerland
© swisstopo


Tectonics deals with the structural composition of the Earth’s crust. Crustal plates are displaced by tectonic processes and rock sequences folded, sheared and pushed on top of each other. The general tectonic map of Switzerland shows the large-scale structures and tectonic units of Switzerland and its neighboring countries. These are often hidden beneath younger and locally thick unconsolidated rock cover and must therefore be extrapolated based on the available evidence. The tectonic overview map thereby provides an important contribution to better understanding the geological structure of Switzerland.

The starting point for all tectonic studies is to capture and depict existing fracture surfaces, thrusts and folds as well as other deformations in and between individual rock units. These field observations are supplemented with spatial analyses of borehole data as well as by means of geophysical surveys (e.g., seismics, aeromagnetics).

Tectonic units can be extrapolated from the Earth’s surface down into the subsurface, which allows the reconstruction of two-dimensional slices, so-called tectonic profiles or cross-sections.

Who is who

Tectonics / Structural geology: Who is who

Structural geology and tectonics are taught and researched at Swiss universities (e.g., ETHZ, University of Bern). Under federal mandate, commissions of the Platform Geosciences (SCNAT) conduct national surveys in the field of geophysics and tectonics (SGPK, FGC). The aforementioned organizations are linked to national and international professional associations.


Federal government, commissions

International professional associations


Links to data sets, databases, maps and other products in the field of tectonics / structural geology

The Tectonic Map of Switzerland 1:500 000 depicts the tectonic units in the whole of Switzerland and in neighboring countries. It provides an excellent overview of the structure of the Alps and their surroundings. In addition, it is an essential tool for education in the field of earth and environmental sciences.



Fundamentals of Geology

Tectonic Map of Switzerland 1:500000