Cosmogenic Nuclide Quantification of Paleo-fluvial Sedimentation Rates in Response to Climate Change
The magnitude of global sediment flux from streams to the oceans over the last 5 Ma is poorly quantified, yet important for predicting future fluxes and deciphering the relative control of tectonic uplift, climate change, vegetation, and related feedback mechanisms on landscape evolution. Despite numerous proxy studies on global sediment delivery to the oceans, it remains uncertain whether bulk sedimentation increased, decreased, or remained approximately constant across one of the most significant global climate changes: the Plio-Pleistocene transition. New developments and strategies in the application of cosmic-ray-produced isotopes, in part developed by this thesis, provide records of pre-historic denudation of confined fluvial catchments in Texas and Yukon. Non-glaciated, tectonically passive regions were targeted in contrast to other studies on modern sedimentation rates in order to isolate the climate influence from glacial and tectonic controls. The results suggest that average catchment temperature, and surficial processes and other factors such as vegetation cover associated with temperature, are the primary controls on the variation in landscape denudation in regions lacking tectonics and direct glacial cover. Specifically, warmer temperatures yield higher denudation rates, both at the scale of glacial-interglacial climate change and over the Plio-Pleistocene transition. The implication is that stream sediment flux to the ocean from tropical and temperate regions was higher during the Pliocene than in the Quaternary. However, this may have been balanced by an increase in sediment flux from regions covered by warm-based glaciers during glacial periods, or by increased temporary continental storage during interglacial periods.