Erosive Response of Non-Glaciated Pyrenean Headwater Catchments to the Last Major Climate Transition and Establishing Interglacial Conditions

Kurt Martin Stange, Ivar Midtkandal, Johan Petter Nystuen, Andrew Sean Murray, Reza Sohbati, Warren Thompson, Cornelia Spiegel, Hans-Joachim Kuss

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    Non-glaciated mountain headwater catchments feature high-resolution geomorphic archives, which provide important insight into erosive processes and sediment dynamics in mountain ranges. As such the Valle de la Fueva catchments in the southern Pyrenees present high-lying talus remnants, extensive denudation surfaces (pediments), deeply incised tributary ravines, and low-lying fluvial-cut terraces. Based on geomorphic analyses and absolute dating using terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides and optically stimulated luminescence, a (late stage) catchment erosion model for the Valle de la Fueva was elaborated and indicates successive development stages of (i) lasting pedimentation under cold-climate conditions during Marine Isotope Stages 4−2, (ii) rapid fluvial dissection, sediment remobilization and downcutting of ravines in response to the last major climate transition and establishing interglacial conditions, and (iii) late stage fluvial incision after 3−4 ka due to regionally increased flood magnitudes, and/or intensification of agriculture and forest management. Valle de la Fueva headwater catchment analysis indicated that the styles and magnitudes of basin surface processes were directly correlated with the amplitude and nature of paleoclimatic changes, modified by the interplay of environmental parameters. In contrast to large-scale fluvial systems, mountain headwater catchments seemed to be less afflicted with temporal and spatial averaging biases. They are thus useful targets for investigating direct climate change effects, surface process coupling, and non-linear response mechanisms in Quaternary fluvial systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number17
    JournalQuaternary Research
    Issue number2
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Catchment erosion
    • Holocene
    • Cosmogenic nuclide dating
    • OSL
    • Pyrenees
    • Geomorphology
    • Basin analysis

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