Geomorphic evidence of active deformation and uplift in a modern continental wedge-top - Foredeep transition: Example of the eastern Ecuadorian Andes

S. Bès de Berc, J. C. Soula, P. Baby, M. Souris, F. Christophoul, J. Rosero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations

Abstract

The eastern Ecuadorian Andes appear as a fold-and-thrust belt adjacent to a continental foredeep represented by one of the world's largest tropical alluvial megafans, the Pastaza megafan, debouching into the Amazonian lowland. The apex of the Pliocene-Pleistocene megafan situated in the present-day wedge top (Subandean Zone) has been cut by an erosion surface, the western part of which has been uplifted of ∼500 m along the frontal thrust, forming a poorly dissected plateau, the Mera plateau. This erosion surface erased most of the previous fluvial landscape but preserved a large thrust-related anticlinal hinge deforming less erodible underlying strata, the Mirador fold and smaller-sized anticlines. This surface has been then incised by two antecedent major rivers, the Pastaza and the Napo, and few tributaries. The plateau edge is marked by a series of large scale gently sloping landslides clustered along a 70 km long concave eastward line associated with the frontal thrust fault. The newly formed immature rivers issued from the landslides or sourced within east-dipping remnants of the erosion surface downstream of the landslide line constitute the greatest part of the streams feeding the Ecuadorian Amazonian basin. At 70 to 100 km from the landslide line, the drainage abruptly changes from highly immature to mature with a well-defined hinge line representing the outer limit of landslide and tectonic control. The diversions of the Pastaza River indicate ongoing fold growth since at least the late Pleistocene in the Eastern Cordillera, and the early Holocene in the Mera plateau. The preserved terraces of the Pastaza valley are all degradational and are ascribed to periods of tectonic (seismic) activity alternating with periods of tectonic quiescence or decreased seismic activity rather than to climatic events. 14C dating of the plateau erosion surface and of the upper Pastaza terraces indicates that the minimum average incision rate since ∼18,000 years BP varies locally in the upper Pastaza valley from 0.5 to 0.67 cm year-1, increasing from ∼18,000 years BP to now. A comparison of these incision rates with fold-and-thrust fault uplift rates indicates that incision in the upper Pastaza valley was a result of rapid uplift (up to 1 cm year-1) along the Mirador fold-and-thrust which caused a restoration of the local equilibrium profile of the upper reach, combined with smaller local fault uplift along the westernmost thrust faults. The uplift of the whole Mera plateau with respect to the upper Amazonian basin gives a minimum average uplift rate of 2.8 cm year-1 since 18,000 years BP. The overall uplift of the Mera plateau and the Eastern Cordillera is likely to have been caused by a regional-scale low angle thrust ramp emerging as the frontal thrust fault.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-380
Number of pages30
JournalTectonophysics
Volume399
Issue number1-4 SPEC. ISS.
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Drainage network
  • Ecuador
  • Holocene incision
  • Landslides
  • Subandean zone
  • Thrust tectonics
  • Upper Amazonian basin

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