Articles | Volume 15, issue 4
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1095–1107, 2011

Special issue: Quantitative analysis of DEMs for hydrology and Earth system...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1095–1107, 2011

Research article 04 Apr 2011

Research article | 04 Apr 2011

The topographic signature of Quaternary tectonic uplift in the Ardennes massif (Western Europe)

N. Sougnez and V. Vanacker N. Sougnez and V. Vanacker
  • Université Catholique de Louvain, Earth and Life Institute, George Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Abstract. Geomorphic processes that produce and transport sediment, and incise river valleys are complex; and often difficult to quantify over longer timescales of 103 to 105 y. Morphometric indices that describe the topography of hill slopes, valleys and river channels have commonly been used to compare morphological characteristics between catchments and to relate them to hydrological and erosion processes. This study aims to analyze the link between tectonic uplift rates and landscape morphology based on slope and channel morphometric indexes. To achieve this objective, we selected 10 catchments of about 150 to 250 km2 across the Ardennes Massif (a Palaeozoic massif of NW Europe, principally located in Belgium) that cover various tectonic domains with uplift rates ranging from about 0.06 to 0.20 mm yr−1 since mid-Pleistocene times. The morphometric analysis indicates that the slope and channel morphology of third-order catchments is not yet in topographic steady-state, and exhibits clear convexities in slope and river profiles. Our analysis indicates that the fluvial system is the main driver of topographic evolution and that the spatial pattern of uplift rates is reflected in the distribution of channel steepness and convexity. The spatial variation that we observe in slope and channel morphology between the 10 third-order catchments suggests that the response of the fluvial system was strongly diachronic, and that a transient signal of adjustment is migrating from the Meuse valley towards the Ardennian headwaters.