Erosion rates and landscape evolution of the lowlands of the Upper Paraguay river basin (Brazil) from cosmogenic Be-10
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The importance of Earth's low sloping areas in regard to global erosion and sediment fluxes has been widely and vigorously debated. It is a crucial area of research to elucidate geologically meaningful rates of land-surface change and thus the speed of element cycling on Earth. However, there are large portions of Earth where erosion rates have not been well or extensively measured, for example, the tropical lowlands. The Cuiabana lowlands are an extensive low-altitude and low-relief dissected metamorphic terrain situated in the Upper Paraguay river basin, central-west Brazil. Besides exposures of highly variable dissected metamorphic rocks, flat residual lateritic caps related to a Late Cenozoic planation surface dominate interfluves of the Cuiabana lowlands. The time-scale over which the lowlands evolved and the planation surface developed, and the rate at which they have been modified by erosion, are poorly known. Here, we present measurements of in situ produced cosmogenic Be-10 in outcropping metamorphic bedrock and clastic-lateritic caps to quantify rates of erosion of the surface and associated landforms in order to better understand the Quaternary landscape evolution of these lowlands. Overall, slow erosion rates (mean 10 m/Ma) suggest a stable tectonic environment in these lowlands. Erosion rates vary widely between different lithologies (range 0.57 to 28.3 m/Ma) consistent with differential erosion driving regional landform evolution. The lowest erosion rates are associated with the low-relief area (irregular plains), where clastic-laterite (mean 0.67 m/Ma) and quartzite (mean 2.6 m/Ma) crop out whereas the highest erosion rates are associated with dissection of residual hills, dominated by metasandstone (mean 11.6 m/Ma) and phyllite (mean 27.6 m/Ma). These data imply that the Cuiabana lowland is comprised of two dominant landform sets with distinct and different dynamics. Because the planation surface (mostly lowlands) is lowering and losing mass more slowly than associated residual hills, regional relief is decreasing over time and the landscape is not in steady state. The extremely slow erosion rates of the clastic-laterite are similar to the slowest outcrop erosion rates reported worldwide. These slow rates are due to the material's properties and resistance, being comprised of quartzite fragments cemented by an iron-rich crust, and reflecting long-term weathering with iron chemical precipitation and ferricrete formation, at least since the Middle Pleistocene. The lateritic caprock appears to be a key factor maintaining hilltop summits of the planation surface over long timescales. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.