New paper published in Geomorphology

Evolution of the Júcar-Cabriel fluvial system on the Mediterranean watershed of the Iberian Peninsula (Valencia, eastern Spain)

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This study presents the characterization and chronology of the Quaternary terrace sequence developed in the confluence zone of the Júcar and Cabriel river valleys. The study area covers a radius of 10 km from the confluence of the two valleys near the locality of Cofrentes (Valencia). It is located in the northern zone of the Ayora-Cofrentes Graben in the northeastern sector of the External Prebetic Zone adjacent to southern Iberian Chain. This N-S graben is an inherited tectonic feature with an axial salt wall subject to different periods of fluvial dissection and refilling since at least the end of the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC).

Regional isostatic uplift and local uplift and subsidence processes related to salt flow and dissolution during the Quaternary period, favored by fluvial entrenchment and terrace development. The terrace system and the previous pre-incision erosional and depositional surfaces are analyzed from a geomorphological point of view. The terrace system only develops within the soft Mio-Pliocene sedimentary fill of the graben, whilst upstream and downstream this zone the studied valleys develop important gorges (canyons) carved in the Cretaceous tablelands (Caroch Massif) and Mio-Pliocene deposits (Llanura Manchega).

The geochronological control is established from 20 numerical ages obtained by different dating methods, such us Electron Spin Resonance (ESR), Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) in detrital sequences and Th/U series in calcareous tufa deposits. Additionally, four K/Ar dates available for volcanic materials disrupting the upper and oldest terrace have been considered. A total of 14 terrace levels were identified between +130–135 m (T1) and +3–4 m (T14) of relative height above the river thalwegs. The T1 has an approximate age of c. 1.6–2.0 M.a. as indicate the age of the volcanic materials from the Agras Volcano intruded in the terrace, marking the onset of Quaternary fluvial dissection in the zone. The obtained geochronological data indicate that the Lower-Middle Pleistocene boundary is slightly above T6 (+60–65 m), which has an ESR age of 577 ± 43 ka.

This terrace also documents the onset of the most important period of rise of the salt within the graben interfering drainage development. The geochronological data indicate the occurrence of a second eruptive event during the second half of the Middle Pleistocene related to the terraces T7 (+50 m) and T8 (+35–40 m), updating the volcanic activity in the zone. The beginning of the Upper Pleistocene is recorded by the top sequences of the T9 terrace (+25–30 m) where numerous OSL and Th/U data have been obtained with ages between ca. 105 and 81 ka (MIS 5). However, these young terraces (T8 to T13) are thickened (8–10 m) recording Middle Pleistocene sediments in their basal sequences with ages between ca. 193 and 137 ka (MIS 6).

The study provides important data on valley evolution under the interference of volcanic activity, salt –related deformation (diapirism, solution subsidence) and fluvial incision fostered by the rise of the axial diapir (salt wall) protruding the graben since at least the Brunhes-Matuyama boundary. The analyzed fluvial evolution documents interesting cases of river capture, drainage antecedence and tectonic adaptation of the drainage throughout the Quaternary Period. The paper also poses interesting geochronological data on the long-term Quaternary evolution of Mediterranean valleys in the Iberian Peninsula, poorly explored to the date

Full reference:

Pablo G. Silva, Fernando Tapias, Javier Élez, Elvira Roquero, Francisco Gutiérrez, Miren del Val, Francisco José Pérez-Torrado, Jorge Luis Giner-Robles, Davinia Moreno (2024). Evolution of the Júcar-Cabriel fluvial system on the Mediterranean watershed of the Iberian Peninsula (Valencia, eastern Spain). Geomorphology 450, 109066

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