Articles | Volume 15, issue 5
Research article
18 May 2011
Research article |  | 18 May 2011

Regional scale analysis of landform configuration with base-level (isobase) maps

C. H. Grohmann, C. Riccomini, and M. A. C. Chamani

Abstract. Base-level maps (or "isobase maps", as originally defined by Filosofov, 1960), express a relationship between valley order and topography. The base-level map can be seen as a "simplified" version of the original topographic surface, from which the "noise" of the low-order stream erosion was removed. This method is able to identify areas with possible tectonic influence even within lithologically uniform domains. Base-level maps have been recently applied in semi-detail scale (e.g., 1:50 000 or larger) morphotectonic analysis. In this paper, we present an evaluation of the method's applicability in regional-scale analysis (e.g., 1:250 000 or smaller). A test area was selected in northern Brazil, at the lower course of the Araguaia and Tocantins rivers. The drainage network extracted from SRTM30_PLUS DEMs with spatial resolution of approximately 900 m was visually compared with available topographic maps and considered to be compatible with a 1:1,000 000 scale. Regarding the interpretation of regional-scale morphostructures, the map constructed with 2nd and 3rd-order valleys was considered to present the best results. Some of the interpreted base-level anomalies correspond to important shear zones and geological contacts present in the 1:5 000 000 Geological Map of South America. Others have no correspondence with mapped Precambrian structures and are considered to represent younger, probably neotectonic, features. A strong E-W orientation of the base-level lines over the inflexion of the Araguaia and Tocantins rivers, suggest a major drainage capture. A N-S topographic swath profile over the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers reveals a topographic pattern which, allied with seismic data showing a roughly N-S direction of extension in the area, lead us to interpret this lineament as an E-W, southward-dipping normal fault. There is also a good visual correspondence between the base-level lineaments and geophysical anomalies. A NW-SE lineament in the southeast of the study area partially corresponds to the northern border of the Mosquito lava field, of Jurassic age, and a NW-SE lineament traced in the northeastern sector of the study area can be interpreted as the Picos-Santa Inês lineament, identifiable in geophysical maps but with little expression in hypsometric or topographic maps.