River patterns reveal two stages of landscape evolution at an oblique convergent margin, Marlborough Fault System, New Zealand

Alison R. Duvall, Sarah A. Harbert, Phaedra Upton, Gregory E. Tucker, Rebecca M. Flowers, Camille Collett
2020 Earth Surface Dynamics  
Abstract. Here we examine the landscape of New Zealand's Marlborough Fault System (MFS), where the Australian and Pacific plates obliquely collide, in order to study landscape evolution and the controls on fluvial patterns at a long-lived plate boundary. We present maps of drainage anomalies and channel steepness, as well as an analysis of the plan-view orientations of rivers and faults, and we find abundant evidence of structurally controlled drainage that we relate to a history of drainage
more » ... tory of drainage capture and rearrangement in response to mountain-building and strike-slip faulting. Despite clear evidence of recent rearrangement of the western MFS drainage network, rivers in this region still flow parallel to older faults, rather than along orthogonal traces of younger, active strike-slip faults. Such drainage patterns emphasize the importance of river entrenchment, showing that once rivers establish themselves along a structural grain, their capture or avulsion becomes difficult, even when exposed to new weakening and tectonic strain. Continued flow along older faults may also indicate that the younger faults have not yet generated a fault damage zone with the material weakening needed to focus erosion and reorient rivers. Channel steepness is highest in the eastern MFS, in a zone centered on the Kaikōura ranges, including within the low-elevation valleys of main stem rivers and at tributaries near the coast. This pattern is consistent with an increase in rock uplift rate toward a subduction front that is locked on its southern end. Based on these results and a wealth of previous geologic studies, we propose two broad stages of landscape evolution over the last 25 million years of orogenesis. In the eastern MFS, Miocene folding above blind thrust faults generated prominent mountain peaks and formed major transverse rivers early in the plate collision history. A transition to Pliocene dextral strike-slip faulting and widespread uplift led to cycles of river channel offset, deflection and capture of tributaries draining across active faults, and headward erosion and captures by major transverse rivers within the western MFS. We predict a similar landscape will evolve south of the Hope Fault, as the locus of plate boundary deformation migrates southward into this region with time.
doi:10.5194/esurf-8-177-2020 fatcat:2aempxb37ze6zazrb73r7z4c5i