Topographic, lithologic and glaciation style influences on paraglacial processes in the upper Sil and Luna catchments, Cantabrian Mountains, NW Spain

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July 2018

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Deglaciated mountainous areas are usually affected by a great range of paraglacial processes that involve progressively denudation of glacial imprints. This study focuses on paraglacial processes and glacial landform preservation in six zones located in two catchments of the Cantabrian Mountains (NWSpain). These zones are adjacent but display important topographic, lithologic and glaciation style differences. An analysis of how these variables conditioned the intensity and diversity of paraglacial processes in these zones was investigated through a detailed study of their relief, lithology and paleo glacier surface using GIS. A comprehensive cartography of paraglacial landforms was also accomplished, considering landslides, alluvial fans and rock glaciers that show signs of having been conditioned by glaciation. Moraines and debris-mantled slopes were also included in the analysis to examine their grade of preservation depending on the studied variables. Data comparison show that differences in glaciation style influenced paraglacial processes. In the ancient icefield area, relief modification by glacial action was limited and scarce paraglacial processes occur. By contrast, in the upper areas located in the southern ranges where an alpine-style of glaciation was installed, paraglacial processes were very active, generating many rock glaciers. Lithology explains some paraglacial landforms distribution: 1) Landslides are associated with incohesive (sandy and shale) rocks; 2) Rock glaciers mainly occur in quartzite areas; 3) In limestone areas subterranean drainage contributes to glacial landscape preservation, but suffosion dolines affect some glacial deposits. Topography is also a key factor in paraglacial processes: 1) Moraines are well-preserved in gently sloping valleys, but rare in the steeper where they are usually transformed into moraine (or debris)-mantled slopes; 2) Alluvial fans are more frequent in the steeper valleys, but more dissected by postglacial river action. 3) Elevation and orientation show little influence on paraglacial landforms, except in the generation of some periglacial features such as rock glaciers.


Paraglacial processes, Glacial geomorphology, Deglaciation, Cantabrian Mountains


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