River patterns reveal landscape evolution at the edge of subduction, Marlborough Fault System, New Zealand Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. Here we examine the landscape of New Zealand's Marlborough Fault System, where the Australian and Pacific plates obliquely collide, in order to consider landscape evolution and the controls on fluvial patterns at complicated plate tectonic boundaries. Based on topographic patterns, we divide the study area into two geomorphic domains, the Kaikōura and Inland Marlborough regions. We present maps of drainage anomalies and channel steepness, as well as an analysis of the plan view orientations of rivers and faults, and find abundant evidence of structurally-controlled drainage and a history of capture and rearrangement. Channel steepness is highest in a zone centered on the Kaikōura domain, including within the low-elevation valleys of main stem rivers and at tributaries near the coast. This pattern is consistent with an increase in rock uplift rate toward a subduction front that is locked on its southern end. Based on these results and a wealth of previous geologic studies, we propose two broad stages of landscape evolution over the last 25 million years of orogenesis. In the Kaikōura domain, Miocene folding above blind thrust or reverse faults generated prominent mountain peaks and formed major transverse rivers early in the plate collision history. A transition to Pliocene dextral strike-slip faulting and widespread uplift led to cycles of river channel offset, deflection and capture of tributaries draining across active faults, and headward erosion and captures by major transverse rivers within the Inland Marlborough domain. Despite clear evidence of recent rearrangement of the Inland Marlborough drainage network, rivers in this domain still flow parallel to the older faults, rather than along orthogonal traces of younger, active faults. Continued flow in the established drainage pattern may indicate that younger faults are not yet mature enough to generate the damage and weakening needed to reorient rivers. We conclude that faulting, uplift, river capture and drainage network entrenchment all dictate drainage patterns and that each factor should be considered when assessing tectonic strain from landscapes, particularly at long-lived and complex tectonic boundaries.;

publication date

  • August 7, 2019

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • November 10, 2020 4:14 AM

Full Author List

  • Duvall AR; Harbert SA; Upton P; Tucker GE; Flowers RM; Collett C

author count

  • 6

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