River spacing and drainage network growth in widening mountain ranges

  • Castelltort S
  • Simpson G
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Drainage networks in linear mountain ranges always display a particular geometrical organisation whereby the spacing between themajor drainage basins is on average equal to half the mountain width (distance fromthe mountain front to the main drainage divide), independent of climate and tectonics. This relationship is valid for mountains having di¡erentwidths and is thus usually thought to be maintained by drainage reorganisation during mountain belt widening.However, such large- scale systematic drainage reorganisation has never been evidenced. In this paper, we suggest an alternative explanation, namely that the observed drainage basin relationships are an inherent property of dendritic river networks and that these relationships are established on the undissected, lowland margins outside mountain ranges and are progressively incorporated and quenched into uplifted topography during range widening.Thus, we suggest that the large- scale geometry of drainage networks in mountain ranges is mainly antecedent to erosion.We propose a model inwhich the largescale drainage geometry is controlled mainly by the geometrical properties of the undissected surfaces (in particular, the ratio of the regional slope to the local slope related to roughness) over which rivers are £owing before uplift, and is therefore independent of climate and tectonics.

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  • Sébastien Castelltort

  • Guy Simpson

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