5 years ago

Fluvial-system response to climate change: The Paleocene-Eocene Tremp Group, Pyrenees, Spain

The Tremp Group of the Tremp-Graus Basin (Southern Pyrenees, Spain) is a succession of predominantly continental origin that records the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a transient episode of extreme global warming that occurred across the Paleocene-Eocene boundary. For this succession, the stratigraphic position of the PETM is accurately determined, and histories of tectonic and sea-level controls are well constrained. Building upon previous studies, this work assesses changes in sedimentary architecture through the PETM in the Tremp Group, based on quantitative sedimentological analyses documented over a km-scale strike-oriented transect in the Arén area, with the scope to better understand the response of this alluvial system to the hyperthermal event. The analysed features represent a partial record of the geomorphic organization and processes of the system at the time of deposition, and are therefore interpretable in terms of geomorphic change in alluvial landscapes caused by the PETM. The record of the PETM, as previously recognized, begins at a time when erosional palaeotopographic relief was developed and deposition was confined in valleys. A shift between valley back-filling and widespread aggradation is observed at the onset of the PETM interval, which demonstrates uniquely the impact of the hyperthermal on both depositional loci and interfluves. Compared to underlying strata, the interval that embodies the onset and main phase of the PETM is characterized by: (i) higher proportion of channel deposits; (ii) channel complexes of greater average thickness and width; (iii) barforms and channel fills that are slightly thicker; (iv) increased thickness of sets of cross-stratified sandstones; (v) similar values of maximum extraclast size, by architectural element. An evident change in the facies organization of channel deposits is also seen through the stratigraphy, though this appears to predate the PETM. Increased channel-body density in the PETM interval can be explained in terms of increased channel mobility, which itself can be related to changes in the stream catchments (e.g., greater bedload delivery, increased water discharge or discharge variability), or to changes in the nature of the depositional basin that would permit the channels to be more mobile (e.g., increased bank erodibility due to variations in vegetation type and density). Interfluve planation is inferred to have occurred immediately prior to, or penecontemporaneously with, accumulation of PETM deposits, which is in accord with inferences of increased erodibility of the interfluves or increased stream erosive power. These observations offer insight into the potential geomorphic metamorphosis of river systems in mid-latitude regions experiencing conditions of rapid global warming.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0921818117302904

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