Advertisement

The kinematics and pattern of escarpment retreat across the rifted continental margin of SE Australia

Authors


Abstract

Rifted continental margins generally display an interior, low-relief, highly weathered upland area and a deeply incised, high-relief coastal area. The boundary between the two zones is commonly demarcated by an abrupt, seaward-facing escarpment. We investigate the rate and pattern of escarpment erosion and landscape evolution along the passive margin of south-east Australia, in the region of the New England Tableland. The process of rifting is shown to initiate an escarpment across which rivers flow, resulting in an escarpment that takes the form of dramatic, elongated gorges. Using a mass balance approach, we estimate the volume/unit length of continental material eroded seaward of the escarpment to be between 41 and 68 km2, approximately an order of magnitude less than the 339 km2 of terrigenous sediments calculated to have been deposited offshore, but consistent with earlier denudation estimates based on apatite fission track data. On the bedrock rivers draining the New England Tableland region, the escarpment is manifested as a series of sharp knickpoints punctuating the river longitudinal profiles. The knickpoints are situated the same distance upstream along the different channels and uniform escarpment retreat rates on the order of 2 km Myr−1 are estimated, despite some differences in bedrock lithologies. Gorge head migration appears to be very important as a bedrock incision mechanism. Field observations indicate a coupling between escarpment retreat and knickpoint propagation, bedrock channel incision, and hillslope development.

Ancillary