Distinguishing tectonic from climatic controls on range-front sedimentation
M.C. Quigley, M. Sandiford and M.L. Cupper
Journal name: Basin Research
Issue: Vol 19, No 4, December 2007 pp. 491 - 505
Info: Article, PDF ( 1.39Mb )
Geologic and chronometric studies of alluvial fan sequences in south-central Australia provide insights into the roles of tectonics and climate in continental landscape evolution. The most voluminous alluvial fans in the Flinders Ranges region have developed adjacent to catchments uplifted by Plio -Quaternary reverse faults, implying that young tectonic activity has exerted a first order control on long-term sediment accumulation rates along the range front. However, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of alluvial fan sequences indicates that late Quaternary facies changes and intervals of sediment aggradation and dissection are not directly correlated with individual faulting events. Fan sequences record a transition from debris flow deposition and soil formation to clast- supported conglomeritic sedimentation by 30 ka. This transition is interpreted to reflect a landscape response to increasing climatic aridity, coupled with large flood events that episodically stripped previously weathered regolith from the landscape. Late Pleistocene to Holocene cycles of fan incision and aggradation post-date the youngest-dated surface ruptures and are interpreted to reflect changes in the frequency and magnitude of large floods. These datasets indicate that tectonic activity controlled long-term sediment supply but climate governed the spatial and temporal patterns of range-front sedimentation. Mild intraplate tectonism appears to have influenced Plio-Quaternary sedimentation patterns across much of the southern Australian continent, including the geometry and extent of alluvial fans and sea-level incursions.