Long-term dispersion of river gravel in a canyon in the Atacama Desert, Central Andes, deduced from their Be-10 concentrations
Intense storms or earthquakes in mountains can supply large amounts of gravel to rivers. Gravel clasts then travel at different rates, with periods of storage and periods of displacement leading to their downstream dispersion over millennia. The rate of this dispersion controls the long-term downcutting rate in mountainous rivers as well as the grain-size signature of climate and tectonic variations in sedimentary basins. Yet, the millennial dispersion rates of gravel are poorly known. Here, we use Be-10 concentrations measured in individual pebbles from a localized source along a 56 km-long canyon in the Central Andes to document the distribution of long-term gravel transit rates. We show that an inverse grain-size velocity relationship previously established from short-term tracer gravel in different rivers worldwide can be extrapolated to the long-term transit rates in the Aroma River, suggesting some universality of this relationship. Gravel are also dispersed by large differences in the mean transport rates independent of gravel size, highlighting that some gravel rest at the river surface over tens of thousands of years. These different transport rates imply a strong spreading of the gravel plumes, providing direct proof for the long-term river buffering of sediment signals between mountainous sources and sedimentary basins. The inferred distribution of residence times suggests the first evidence of anomalous diffusion in gravel transport over long timespans.
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|Long-term dispersion of river gravel in a canyon in the Atacama Desert, Central Andes, deduced from their Be-10 concentrations
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|Long-term dispersion of river gravel in a canyon in the Atacama Desert, Central Andes, deduced from their 10Be concentrations
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