Title

River profile evolution by plucking in lithologically heterogeneous landscapes: Uniform uplift vs. tilting

Publication Date

6-15-2020

Document Type

Article

Department

Geology

Publication Title

Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

Volume

45

Issue

7

DOI

10.1002/esp.4832

First Page

1579

Last Page

1588

Abstract

Recent studies provide a theoretical framework for understanding the incision of bedrock rivers by plucking. These studies motivated the development of a numerical model that simulates plucking to explore the evolution of channel profiles in lithologically diverse terrain. In the main governing equation, the incision rate is calculated as a function of the difference between the boundary shear stress and a threshold shear stress needed to entrain blocks from the bed. Because an earlier study suggested that plucking is the primary incisional process in the northern Sierra Nevada (CA), the model was calibrated to approximate the conditions in the region. The profiles of the simulated rivers are stair-stepped, with sharp breaks-in-slope at lithological boundaries. This characteristic is common to rivers draining the northern Sierra Nevada, suggesting that the size of blocks available for plucking, as mediated by the fracture density, may be the primary control on their gradients. Moreover, the numerical experiments highlight the role of threshold shear stresses in the post-orogenic persistence of steep reaches and relict terrain. Finally, comparisons of profiles evolved under tilting or uniform uplift scenarios provide insights into how these different uplift modes affect profile evolution. For example, whereas uniform uplift generates a single migrating knickpoint at the range front, multiple migrating knickpoints can form simultaneously along a river in a tilting landscape. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords

fractures, modelling, plucking, river incision, Sierra Nevada

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