Transient channel incision along Bolinas Ridge, California: Evidence for differential rock uplift adjacent to the San Andreas fault



[1] The rates and spatial distribution of active deformation provide critical constraints on the geodynamics of deforming lithosphere, yet such data are often difficult to acquire in eroding landscapes where poor preservation of geomorphic or stratigraphic markers hinders strain reconstruction. Recent advances in understanding of the relationship between bedrock channel profile form and erosion rate have led to their use as an index of rock uplift rate in steady state landscapes. Here we extend this analysis to landscapes experiencing a transient increase in erosion rate using an example from the Marin County region of northern California. We characterize channel and hillslope gradients in a series of small watersheds along a monolithologic portion of the Franciscan terrane in Marin County. Channel steepness indices vary strongly from north to south along the ridge and correspond with the progressive development of relief on threshold hillslopes along valley walls. These patterns argue that recent channel incision has engendered a transient adjustment of hillslope gradient, as incision outpaces soil production rates. These differences in landscape form and inferred incision rate are explained by differential rock uplift within the region east of the San Andreas fault. Relationships between channel gradient and incision rate suggest a threefold to fivefold difference in incision rate across the region and place a minimum bound on differential rock uplift rates. Our study highlights how landscape analysis can place bounds on the distribution of Earth deformation in both space and time and thus lends insight into the processes driving that deformation.