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Late Quaternary aggradation and incision in the headwaters of the Yangtze River, eastern Tibet Plateau, China
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  • Yang Yu,
  • Xianyan Wang,
  • shuangwen Yi,
  • Xiaodong Miao,
  • Jef Vandenberghe,
  • Yiquan Li,
  • Huayu Lu
Yang Yu
Nanjing University
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Xianyan Wang
Nanjing University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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shuangwen Yi
Nanjing University
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Xiaodong Miao
School of Resource and Environmental Sciences, Linyi University
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Jef Vandenberghe
VU University
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Yiquan Li
School of Geography and Ocean Science, Nanjing University
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Huayu Lu
School of Geography and Ocean Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
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River aggradation or incision at different spatial-temporal scales are governed by tectonics, climate change and surface processes which all adjust the ratio of sediment load to transport capacity of a channel. But how the river responds to differential tectonic and extreme climate events in a catchment is still poorly understood. Here, we address this issue by reconstructing the distribution, ages and sedimentary process of fluvial terraces in a tectonically active area and monsoonal environment in the headwaters of the Yangtze River in the eastern Tibet Plateau. Field observations, topographic analyses and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating reveal a remarkable fluvial aggradation, followed by terraces formations at elevations of 62-55 m (T7), 42-46 m (T6), 38 m (T5), 22-36 m (T4), 18 m (T3), 11 m (T2), 2-6 m (T1) above the present floodplain. Gravelly fluvial accumulation more than 62 m thick has been dated prior to 24-19 ka. It is regarded as a response to cold climate during the Last Glacial Maximum. Subsequently, the strong monsoon precipitation contributed to cycles of rapid incision and lateral erosion, expressed as cut-in-fill terraces. The correlation of terraces suggests that specific tectonic activity controls the spatial scale and geomorphic characteristics of the terraces, while climate fluctuations determine the valley filling, river incision and terrace formation. Debris and colluvial sediments are frequently interbedded in fluvial sediment sequences, illustrating the episodic short-time blocking of the channel around 20 ka. This indicates the potential impact of extreme events on the geomorphic evolution in the rugged terrain.