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A conceptual model of valley incision, planation and terrace formation during cold and arid permafrost conditions of Pleistocene southern England

  • Julian B. Murton (a1) and Roger K. Belshaw (a2)

Staircases of gravelly river terrace deposits in southern England occupy valleys typically underlain by frost-susceptible and brecciated bedrocks. The valleys developed during the Quaternary by alternating episodes of (1) brecciation, incision and planation through the bedrock, forming wide low-relief erosion surfaces; and (2) aggradation in braidplains of gravel a few meters thick that bury the erosion surfaces. A conceptual model to account for some of the terraces proposes that brecciation resulted from ice segregation in the ice-rich layer in the upper meters of Pleistocene permafrost, making them vulnerable to fluvial thermal erosion and therefore predisposing the bedrock to planation. The low gradients of the valleys were adjusted such that rivers transferred fine materials out of the basins but lacked the competence to remove gravel, which therefore accumulated within floodplains. The model challenges the prevailing view of incision during climate transitions. It attributes incision and planation to very cold and arid permafrost conditions, when rivers had limited discharges and hillslopes supplied limited volumes of stony debris into valley bottoms.

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Corresponding author. Fax: +44 1273 677196.
E-mail address: (J.B. Murton).
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