Ages and potential drivers of fluvial fill terrace formation in the southern-central Andes, NW Argentina
Abstract:Fluvial fill terraces record changes in past sediment to water discharge ratios. Across the world, fill terrace formation in glaciated catchments has been linked to variable sediment production and river discharge over glacial–interglacial cycles. However, pronounced fill terraces far from major glaciers and ice sheets have the potential to record a different set of climate forcings.
So far, little is known about how changes in global climate on multi-millenial timescales affected the rainfall patterns in the interior of South America, or how those changes might be reflected in the landscape. Nonetheless, several studies in the Central Andes have linked terrace formation to precessionally-controlled changes in precipitation. In this study, we investigate the timing of fluvial fill terrace planation and abandonment in the Quebrada del Toro, an intermontane basin located in the Eastern Cordillera of the southern-central Andes in NW Argentina. Fluvial fills in the valley reach more than 100 m above the current river level. Within the fills, we observe a minimum of 5 terrace levels with pronounced differences in their extent and preservation. These fills document successive episodes of incision, punctuated by periods of lateral planation and possible partial re-filling. The filling and re-incision has previously been associated with tectonic activity in the basin, but the potential superposed role of climate cycles in forming terraces has not been considered.
We sampled four CRN (10Be) depth profiles to date the abandonment of the broadest terrace surfaces, least affected by later overwash and erosion. The ages fall within the late Pleistocene (~ 80 ka to 400 ka). While the presence of inflationary soils beneath desert pavements make precise age determinations difficult, our preliminary calculations suggest a potential link to orbital eccentricity (~100 kyr) cycles, pointing to a different timescale of landscape response to climate forcing compared to previous studies.