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Continental-scale erosion and transport laws: A new approach to quantitatively investigate macroscale landscapes and associated sediment fluxes over the geological past

Abstract : Although critical to a variety of issues in Earth Sciences, paleotopography remains poorly constrained over the geological past. Indeed, sediments preserve a record of the history of the Earth surface, but deconvolving these archives remains a challenge in the absence of a proper quantification of surface processes at the large spatial and temporal resolution imposed by these data. To solve for this, we propose a set of simple bedrock erosion and sediment transport laws that apply over large spatial (∼100 km) and temporal (∼1-10 Ma) scales. These laws are tested in light of physical experiments of landscape evolution under different tectonic and climatic forcings and are calibrated using present-day large-scale Earth topography and sediment fluxes in rivers. We subsequently implement these processes into a numerical code, TopoSed, that is able to predict the evolution of macroscale topography, sediment fluxes, paleogeographies, and bedrock exhumation given a tectonic and climatic input scenario. The results of such simulations can be directly compared to sedimentary or thermochronological data to test the plausibility of the input tectonics and predicted topography. A series of tests on the sensitivity of such predictions to the uncertainties on input parameters shows that it should be possible from sedimentary data to invert for paleouplift rates and also for paleotopographies during periods covering major tectonic or climatic events. Although this code is meant to be refined in the future as we improve our understanding of surface processes at these macroscales, TopoSed provides a powerful tool to put constraints on past geodynamic processes, such as dynamic topography, by extracting quantitative information on the evolution of the Earth surface from sedimentary data.
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Martine Simoes, Jean Braun, Stéphane Bonnet. Continental-scale erosion and transport laws: A new approach to quantitatively investigate macroscale landscapes and associated sediment fluxes over the geological past. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, AGU and the Geochemical Society, 2010, 11, pp.09001. ⟨10.1029/2010GC003121⟩. ⟨insu-00541509⟩

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