Lithologic, Climatic, and Biotic vs. Abiotic Controls on Erosion and Landscape Evolution
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The triumvirate of tectonics, lithology, and climate control landscape evolution. This study quantifies how lithologic variation and climate-mediated changes in ecosystems perturb steady state processes in the unglaciated, soil-mantled Oregon Coast Range (OCR). I first demonstrate that minor grain-scale differences in rock properties in a seemingly uniform sandstone control differences in rock strength, biotic bedrock-to-soil production efficacy, and erosion rates and influence relief at the watershed scale. I then build on sedimentology, paleoecology, and isotopic-derived paleoerosion data I collected from a new 50 ka sediment archive at Little Lake, OR to explore climate controls on soil production and erosion rates 21 ka across the OCR and spanning 50 ky within a single watershed. In Chapter III, I combine a mechanistic frost weathering model with a regional Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) climate reconstruction and paleovegetation data to demonstrate that accelerated frost-driven erosion was pervasive across the OCR during the LGM. My findings provide a new framework to quantify how the late Pleistocene affects modern erosion and soil formation rates in unglaciated environments and implies that most landscapes reside in a transient state. In Chapter IV, I document climate-mediated ecosystem influence on erosion rates over 3 climatic intervals. 10Be-derived erosion rates increase 3x (from 0.6 mm/yr to 0.21 mm/yr) as the OCR transitioned from the open forest-dominated marine isotope stage (MIS) climate interval (50-26 ka) into the periglacial subalpine MIS 2 glacial interval (26-13 ka). Measured erosion rates fell by more than half as the subalpine ecosystem gave way to the modern MIS 1 closed canopy Douglas-fir forest. Coupling paleovegetation-derived climate information with core observations I model frost weathering intensity from ~ 43 ka to 21 ka and establish a correspondence with increasing frost weathering intensity and increasing 10Be-derived erosion rates. Utilizing a transient mixing depth and erosion rate model, I am able to broadly replicate measured erosion rates at Little Lake through time. My findings contradict previous work that suggests climate has only weak control on erosion rates. This dissertation includes previously published and unpublished co-authored material.