Hillslopes Record the Growth and Decay of Landscapes

Martin D. Hurst, Simon Mudd, Mikael Attal, George Hilley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Earth's surface archives the combined history of tectonics and erosion, which tend to roughen landscapes, and sediment transport and deposition, which smooth them. We analyzed hillslope morphology in the tectonically active Dragon’s Back Pressure Ridge in California, United States, to assess whether tectonic uplift history can be reconstructed using measurable attributes of hillslope features within landscapes. Hilltop curvature and hillslope relief mirror measured rates of vertical displacement caused by tectonic forcing, and their relationships are consistent with those expected when idealizing hillslope transport as a nonlinear diffusion process. Hilltop curvature lags behind relief in its response to changing erosion rates, allowing growing landscapes to be distinguished from decaying landscapes. Numerical modeling demonstrates that hillslope morphology may be used to infer changes in tectonic rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-871
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume341
Issue number6148
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2013

Keywords

  • tectonics
  • geomorphology
  • topographic analysis

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