Contrasting fluvial styles of the Paraguay River in the northwestern border of the Pantanal wetland, Brazil
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The Upper Paraguay drainage basin is situated mainly in west-central Brazil. near the Bolivian border. Flowing from north to south, the Paraguay is the trunk river of an alluvial depositional tract characterized by complex geomorphologic zonation that resulted from an intricate geologic evolution since the Late Pleistocene. This paper focuses on the geomorphology of the Paraguay River at the northwestern border of the Pantanal wetland, where two broad geomorphologic zones were distinguished. North from the Pantanal wetland, the Paraguay River flows in an aggradational fluvial plain, 5 km wide and incised into older alluvial deposits. The river exhibits a meandering style over most of its course, but sinuosity drops from 2.2 to 1.1 near the northwest border of the Pantanal wetland where the river has been forming the Paraguay fluvial megafan since the Late Pleistocene. The river deflects 90 degrees eastward at the entrance into the Pantanal, changing its fluvial style because of a progressive loss of confinement downstream of the point where the river reaches lowland plains. The river becomes more sinuous. adopts a distributary pattern within the wetland and brings about the creation of the modern depositional lobe characterized by higher topographic gradient and active sedimentation likely linked to increased accommodation space allowing progradation. Fluvial discharge diminishes in the Pantanal wetland because of channel overbank flow during the rainy season and frequent levee crevassing. Avulsion belts and channel-levee complex are preserved on the floodplain as relict forms. South of the convergence of the two main channels that define the Taiama Island, a loss of gradient marks the base of the depositional lobe. Further downstream, the Paraguay River returns to a meandering fluvial style, but crossing a large fluvial plain populated by hundreds of small lakes and seasonally flooded that characterizes the Pantanal wetland. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.