Low rates of bedrock outcrop erosion in the central Appalachian Mountains inferred from in situ 10Be

TitleLow rates of bedrock outcrop erosion in the central Appalachian Mountains inferred from in situ 10Be
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPortenga, EW, Bierman, P, Rizzo, DM, Rood, DH
JournalGeological Society of America Bulletin
Pagination201 - 215
Date Published2013/01

Bedrock outcrops are common on central Appalachian Mountain ridgelines. Because these ridgelines define watersheds, the rate at which they erode influences the pace of landscape evolution. To estimate ridgeline erosion rates, we sampled 72 quartz-bearing outcrops from the Potomac and Susquehanna River Basins and measured in situ–produced 10Be. Ridgeline erosion rates average 9 ± 1 m m.y.−1 (median = 6 m m.y.−1), similar to 10Be-derived rates previously reported for the region. The range of erosion rates we calculated reflects the wide distribution of samples we collected and the likely inclusion of outcrops affected by episodic loss of thick slabs and periglacial activity. Outcrops on main ridgelines erode slower than those on mountainside spur ridges because ridgelines are less likely to be covered by soil, which reduces the production rate of 10Be and increases the erosion rate of rock. Ridgeline outcrops erode slower than drainage basins in the Susquehanna and Potomac River watersheds, suggesting a landscape in disequilibrium. Erosion rates are more similar for outcrops meters to tens of meters apart than those at greater distances, yet semivariogram analysis suggests that outcrop erosion rates in the same physiographic province are similar even though they are hundreds of kilometers apart. This similarity may reflect underlying lithological and/or structural properties common to each physiographic province. Average 10Be-derived outcrop erosion rates are similar to denudation rates determined by other means (sediment flux, fission-track thermochronology, [U-Th]/He dating), indicating that the pace of landscape evolution in the central Appalachian Mountains is slow, and has been since post-Triassic rifting events.

Short TitleGeological Society of America Bulletin
Refereed DesignationRefereed
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