Basin inversion: some consequences for drainage evolution and alluvial architecture



ABSTRACT Sedimentary basins developed in tectonically active areas commonly display dramatic changes in sedimentation rates, styles and spatial organization of alluvial facies. When deformation rates are relatively high these changes are frequently attributed to deflection and/or ponding of the fluvial systems. This paper examines the indirect modifications that less intense, epeirogenic uplift may instigate, during the latter stages of basin inversion, in the context of a fluvial system adjusting to the deformation. Field evidence is taken from the Sorbas Basin of south-east Spain and data are employed from both the current drainage pattern and ancient (Plio-Quaternary) sedimentary sequence. Major provenance and sedimentation changes in the ancient record (in terms of both rates and styles) are attributed to river capture. Intrinsic controls to the system (fan progradation and trenching) and the prevailing (semi-arid) climate provided the overall framework of fan development (general coarsening upwards sequence and change from sheetflood to braided conditions in the lower part of the sequence). This sedimentation trend was then substantially modified (a change to small meandering channels and a change in provenance) by the capture of the fan feeder by an aggressive subsequent stream. This cut off the connection with the former source area and reduced sediment and water input into the system. Initially the sedimentation rates declined and minor incision was stimulated by the increase in the water to sediment ratio as a result of the reduction in easily erodible sand to the system that resulted from the source area change. This minor incision stimulated a rejuvenation of the streams sourcing the fan, temporarily increasing sediment supply and choking the small channels, leading to a return to unconfined flow conditions. The system rapidly exhausted the sediment from the reduced catchment area leading to a fining upwards and abandonment of the system. This was followed by incision of the modern drainage network stimulated by base level changes in the main Sorbas Basin drainage network, to which the study area was tributary.