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Climatic imprint on landscape morphology in the western escarpment of the Andes
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology.
2013 (English)In: Geomorphology, ISSN 0169-555X, Vol. 194, 76-83 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Because of competing forces and variations through time, the relative importance of geomorphic processes responsible for the long-term topographic evolution of a mountain range is not always obvious. Here we perform a space-for-time substitution with the western escarpment of the Andes between 10 and 20 degrees S to identify the mechanisms of plateau destruction over geological timescales. We use this setting to propose that variations in the precipitation rate play a primary role in setting hillslope relief in uplifted mountainous landscapes. We find that in dry climates local topographic relief grows with increasing precipitation, independent of the underlying lithology and given an overall uniform rock uplift history. We proceed by differentiating Andean landscapes with generally low precipitation rates (80-500 mm a(-1), Peruvian Andes 10-20 degrees S) where local relief correlates positively with precipitation, from those with higher precipitation rates (400-1400 mm a(-1), Chilean Andes 35-40 degrees S) where increases in precipitation lead to topographic decay. We suggest that these trends result from dominant bottom-up control (channel incision is faster than hillslope response) giving way to an increasing top-down control (hillslope lowering is faster than channel incision). With low precipitation, relief growth is controlled by stream incision and knickzone retreat into a largely undissected plateau. With higher precipitation rates, relief is set by the steepness of graded streams and the rates of sediment production and transport on hillslopes. Trends of topography can also be interpreted in temporal terms in which the higher precipitation results in shorter response times, such that the Peruvian Andes between 10 and 20 degrees S are still responding to Miocene uplift, while in the Chilean Andes between 35 and 40 degrees S, these knickzones have already propagated through the entire fluvial network. We anticipate that such changes also operate during the formation and destruction of other mountainous plateau landscapes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 194, 76-83 p.
Keyword [en]
Andes, Transient landscapes, Climate control, Knickzones, Morphometric analysis
National Category
Physical Geography Geology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-92113DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.04.015ISI: 000320212700008OAI: diva2:637789


Available from: 2013-07-22 Created: 2013-07-19 Last updated: 2013-07-22Bibliographically approved

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Preusser, Frank
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