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Changes in sediment flux to continental margins are commonly interpreted in terms of tectonic growth of topography or climatic change. Here, we show that variations in sediment yield from orogenic systems, previously considered as resulting from climate change, drainage reorganisation or mantle processes can be explained by intrinsic mechanisms of mountain belt/foreland basin systems naturally evolving during post-orogenic decay. Numerical modelling indicates an increase of sediment flux leaving the orogenic system synchronous with the cessation of deposition in the foreland basin and the transition from late syn- to post-orogenesis. Experiments highlight the importance of lithospheric flexure that causes the post-orogenic isostatic rebound of the foreland basin. Erosion of the rebounding foreland basin combined with continued sediment flux from the thrust wedge drives an acceleration in sediment outflux towards continental margins. Sediment budget records in natural settings such as the Northern Pyrenees or Western European Alps also indicate accelerated post-orogenic sediment delivery to the Bay of Biscay and Rhône Delta respectively. These intrinsic processes that determine sediment yield to continental margins must be accounted for prior to consideration of additional external tectonic or climatic controls.
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Post orogenic sediment flux to continental margins: Miocene erosion and sediment yield from the Pyrenees
24/08/16 → 31/12/22