LATE CENOZOIC INCREASE IN ACCUMULATION RATES OF TERRESTRIAL SEDIMENT: How Might Climate Change Have Affected Erosion Rates?

Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Vol. 32:67-89 (Volume publication date 19 May 2004)
First posted online on November 10, 2003
https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.earth.32.091003.143456

Abstract

▪ Abstract Accumulation rates of terrestrial sediment have increased in the past few million years both on and adjacent to continents, although not everywhere. Apparently, erosion has increased in elevated terrain regardless of when last tectonically active or what the present-day climate. In many regions, sediment coarsened abruptly in late Pliocene time. Sparser data suggest increased sedimentation rates at ∼15 Ma, approximately when oxygen isotopes in benthic foraminifera imply high-latitude cooling. If climate change effected accelerated erosion, understanding how it did so remains the challenge. Some obvious candidates, such as lowered sea level leading to erosion of continental shelves or increased glaciation, account for increased sedimentation in some, but not all, areas. Perhaps stable climates that varied slowly allowed geomorphic processes to maintain a state of equilibrium with little erosion until ∼3–4 Ma, when large oscillations in climate with periods of 20,000–40,000 years developed and denied the landscape the chance to reach equilibrium.

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