The African Landscape Through Space and Time

Paul, J. D. and Roberts, G. G. and White, N. J. (2014) The African Landscape Through Space and Time. Tectonics. ISSN 0278-7407, ESSN: 1944-9194 DOI

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It is generally accepted that Cenozoic epeirogeny of the African continent is moderated by convective circulation of the mantle. Nevertheless, the spatial and temporal evolution of Africa's “basin-and-swell” physiography is not well known. Here we show how continental drainage networks can be used to place broad constraints on the pattern of uplift through space and time. First, we assemble an inventory of 710 longitudinal river profiles that includes major tributaries of the 10 largest catchments. River profiles have been jointly inverted to determine the pattern of uplift rate as a function of space and time. Our inverse model assumes that shapes of river profiles are controlled by uplift rate history and modulated by erosional processes, which can be calibrated using independent geologic evidence (e.g., marine terraces, volcanism and thermochronologic data). Our results suggest that modern African topography started to develop ∼30 Myr ago when volcanic swells appeared in North and East Africa. During the last 15–20 Myr, subequatorial Africa was rapidly elevated, culminating in the appearance of three large swells that straddle southern and western coasts. Our results enable patterns of sedimentary flux at major deltas to be predicted and tested. We suggest that the evolution of drainage networks is dominated by rapid upstream advection of signals produced by a changing pattern of regional uplift. An important corollary is that, with careful independent calibration, these networks might act as useful tape recorders of otherwise inaccessible mantle processes. Finally, we note that there are substantial discrepancies between our results and published dynamic topographic predictions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: ©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2014AREP; IA67; phd.,
Subjects: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Divisions: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
08 - Green Open Access
Journal or Publication Title: Tectonics
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2014 14:49
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2014 01:00

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