Climate or tectonics? What controls the spatial-temporal variations in erosion rates across the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia? - INSU - Institut national des sciences de l'Univers Access content directly
Journal Articles Global and Planetary Change Year : 2021

Climate or tectonics? What controls the spatial-temporal variations in erosion rates across the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia?

Helbert García-Delgado
  • Function : Author
Nicolás Villamizar-Escalante
  • Function : Author
Mauricio A. Bermúdez
  • Function : Author
Matthias Bernet
Francisco Velandia


Linking the long-term with the short-term exhumation history of a mountain range is vital for understanding the evolution of orogenic topography. Further, erosion rates could be controlled by the variability of climatic and/or tectonic processes over geological time. For example, in the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes, until recently climate forcing has been hypothesized as the primary driver of rapid Pliocene exhumation rates. In this contribution, we test this climate forcing hypothesis by integrating geomorphic, seismic, geological and published low-temperature thermochronological (Apatite Fission-Track; AFT), and cosmogenic nuclide (CN) data to quantitatively test the correlation of the spatial patterns of exhumation/erosion with either a tectonic or climatic forcing. From a regional perspective, both the long- and short-term erosion rates (derived from AFT and CN data, respectively) have a reasonable correlation with the seismic strain rates and local relief, whereas the contribution of the short-term rainfall patterns to exhumation (and denudation) is either weak or non-existent. For the Eastern Cordillera, tectonism through seismic deformation therefore seems to be a more critical driver of the topographic evolution of the range when compared with the climate variable. To deepen our investigation, we subdivided the study area into six subregions and performed a detailed statistical analysis. In one out of the six subregions (SEC2E), in the Quetame Massif area, short-term rainfall data is well correlated with the computed erosion rates. Nevertheless, the ten-fold difference between the long-term (2.36 km/Myr) and the current (0.27 km/Myr) denudation rates suggest they are strongly decoupled. The remaining five subregions featured varied correlations suggesting that the tectonic-climatic characteristics of each area must be considered and that effective local controls, such as rainfall in subzone SEC2E, cannot be extrapolated to the whole range. Finally, we discuss the tectonic implications of our findings, stressing how tectonic inheritance, typical of inversion orogens such as the Eastern Cordillera, is critical for understanding the spatial variability in exhumation/erosion rates and surface uplift. For instance, we reconstructed the paleoprofiles of four rivers (the Duda, Ariari, Guayuriba, and Guatiquía Rivers), draining the Sumapaz and Chingaza relict landscapes, on the hanging wall of the Servitá Fault, the typical example of an inverted structure. In this way, we evidenced a net surface uplift of at least 1.4 km since the late Miocene, which we speculate primarily controlled by the Servitá Fault. These findings have first-order implications as they provide evidence for Pliocene to Pleistocene landscape rejuvenation driven by tectonically inverted faults.
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insu-03594395 , version 1 (27-01-2023)



Helbert García-Delgado, Nicolás Villamizar-Escalante, Mauricio A. Bermúdez, Matthias Bernet, Francisco Velandia. Climate or tectonics? What controls the spatial-temporal variations in erosion rates across the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia?. Global and Planetary Change, 2021, 203, p. 20-43. ⟨10.1016/j.gloplacha.2021.103541⟩. ⟨insu-03594395⟩
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