Comparing nearby areas with contrasted seismicity distributions like the French Variscan Armorican Massif (AM) and the surrounding intracratonic Paris Basin (PB) can help deciphering which parameters control the occurrence or absence of diffuse, intraplate seismicity. In this paper, we examine how lithosphere temperature, fluid pressure, and frictional strength variations, combined with horizontal and bending stresses, may condition brittle, ductile or elastic behaviours of the crust in the AM and PB. We compute yield stress envelopes (YSE) and lithospheric flexure across a 1000 km-long SW–NE profile crossing the AM and PB approximately parallel to the direction of the minimum horizontal stress. Flexural models slightly better fit measured Bouguer gravity data if we apply two vertical loads on the AM and PB, with values (positive downward) ranging between −3 and −2.1012, and between 4 and 6.1012 N.m-2, respectively, depending on the chosen crustal composition. Our results evidence that whatever the crustal composition, bending stresses and heat flow variations alone are not sufficient to explain the difference in seismogenic behaviour between the AM and the PB. Variations in friction coefficient, in the range of standard values, are not totally satisfying either, since they do not restrain the brittle crustal thickness in the PB to less than 10 km, which is still large enough to be the locus of shallow earthquakes. Oppositely, increasing the cohesion from 10 to 80 MPa has a stronger effect on the thickness of the brittle upper crust, decreasing it from 10 to 15 km beneath the AM to 0–5 km beneath the PB. This suggests that the Mesozoic sedimentary pile can act as a sticky layer holding together basement rocks of the PB, which is equivalent to an increase in cohesion, and protects them from failure.
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