Struth, L., García-Castellanos, D., Rodríguez-Rodríguez, L., Viaplana-Muzas, M., Vergés, J., & Jiménez-Díaz, A. (2021). Topographic, lithospheric and lithologic controls on the transient landscape evolution after the opening of internally-drained basins. Modelling the North Iberian Neogene drainage. BSGF - Earth Sci. Bull., 192.


The opening of internally-drained (endorheic) sedimentary basins often leads to a major drainage change, re-excavation of the basin sedimentary infill, and transient landscape. The timing of such basin openings can be dated only in exceptional cases in which the youngest sedimentary infill remains preserved. For this reason, the processes and timing involved in their transient landscape evolution are poorly known. We explore the role of erodibility, basin geometry and flexural isostasy during the capture of internally-drained basins by means of numerical modelling techniques constrained by recent terrace cosmogenic dating and geomorphological analysis, addressing the issue as to why the Duero and Ebro rivers, draining two Cenozoic sedimentary basins in N Iberia with similar geographical dimensions and drainage histories, have undergone a markedly different erosion evolution leading to distinctly different present morphology. To evaluate how these intrinsic parameters affect the transient landscape evolution, we design a synthetic scenario inspired by those basins. The results show that, once a basin becomes externally drained, its drainage integration and erosion rates are strongly dependent on (1) the basin elevation above the base level; (2) the width of the topographic barrier, (3) its erodibility; and (4) the rigidity of the lithosphere. The results show that transient landscape evolution can last for tens of millions of years even in absence of tectonic activity and changes in base level or climate. Basins isolated by wide and resistant barriers such as the Duero Basin may undergo a multi-million-year time lag between drainage opening and basin-wide incision. In the case of the Duero Basin, this delay may explain the paradoxical time lag between the last lacustrine bulk sedimentation dated at 9.6 Ma and the onset of widespread basin incision variously estimated at 3.7 to 1 Ma.

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