Modeling Strike-Slip-Driven Stream Capture in Detachment- and Transport-Limited Fluvial Systems

Friday, 19 December 2014
Sarah Harbert1, Alison R Duvall1 and Gregory E Tucker2, (1)University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States, (2)Univ Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States
Rivers, especially those in mountainous settings, are known to respond to tectonic and climatic drivers through both gradual and abrupt changes in slope, hydraulic geometry, and planform. Modification of drainage network topology by stream capture, in which drainage area, and therefore water and sediment, is diverted suddenly from one catchment into another, represents the rapid end of the fluvial response spectrum. Such sudden drainage rearrangement affects the river’s potential for incision and sediment transport, and thus has implications for the development of topography and for depositional histories in sedimentary basins. Despite recognition of the importance of this process in landscape evolution, the factors controlling the occurrence of stream capture are not well understood. Here we investigate the process of stream capture using strike-slip faults as a natural experiment. Lateral fault motion drives stream capture when offset is enough to juxtapose adjacent fault-perpendicular streams. In the simplest scenario, the capture events should occur regularly in space and time whenever two streams are juxtaposed, the frequency of capture depending only on drainage spacing and fault slip rate. However, in real-world settings such as the San Andreas Fault Zone of California and the Marlborough Fault System of New Zealand, such regularity is not always observed. We use the Channel-Hillslope Integrated Landscape Development Model (CHILD) to investigate the mechanisms and frequency of stream capture in a strike-slip setting. Models are designed to address the connection between the size (i.e. drainage area) of juxtaposed rivers and the likelihood that capture will occur between them. We also explore the role of sediment load in the capture process by modeling both detachment-limited and transport-limited systems. Comparison of these model results to case-study field sites will help us to interpret the landscape signature of strike-slip faulting, and to understand the prevalence of sudden topological changes in drainage network evolution.