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Topographic growth around the Orange River valley, southern Africa: A Cenozoic record of crustal deformation and climatic change

Abstract : We reconstruct the history of topographic growth in southern Africa on both sides of the Orange River valley from an integrated analysis of erosion surfaces, crustal deformation and climate change. First, we propose an inventory of erosion surfaces observed in the study area and classify them according to their most likely formative process, i.e. chemical weathering or mechanical erosion. Among the various land units observed we define a new class of landform: the pedivalley, which corresponds to a wide valley with a flat erosional floor. In the Orange River valley, we mapped three low-relief erosion surfaces, each bevelling a variety of lithologies. The oldest and most elevated is (1) a stripped etchplain evolving laterally into (2) a stepped pediplain bearing residual inselbergs; (3) a younger pediplain later formed in response to a more recent event of crustal deformation. These are all Cenozoic landforms: the etchplain is associated with a late Palaeocene to middle Eocene weathering event, and the two pediplains are older than the middle Miocene alluvial terraces of the Orange River. Landscape evolution was first driven by slow uplift (10 m/Ma), followed by a second interval of uplift involving a cumulative magnitude of at least 200 m. This event shaped the transition between the two pediplains and modified the drainage pattern. A final phase of uplift (magnitude: 60 m) occurred after the Middle Miocene and drove the incision of the lower terraces of the Orange River. Climate exerted a major control over the denudation process, and involved very humid conditions responsible for lateritic weathering, followed by more arid conditions, which promoted the formation of pedivalleys. Collectively, these produce pediplains.
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Olivier Dauteuil, Paul Bessin, François Guillocheau. Topographic growth around the Orange River valley, southern Africa: A Cenozoic record of crustal deformation and climatic change. Geomorphology, Elsevier, 2015, 233, pp.5-19. ⟨10.1016/j.geomorph.2014.11.017⟩. ⟨insu-01120228⟩

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