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Lithology controls the regional distribution and morphological diversity of montane Mediterranean badlands in the upper Llobregat basin (eastern Pyrenees)

AutorMoreno-de-las-Heras, Mariano; Gallart, Francesc
Palabras claveBadlands
Mediterranean mountains
Slope angle
Slope instability
Fecha de publicación15-nov-2016
CitaciónGeomorphology 273: 107-115 (2016)
ResumenBadlands are pervasive in a wide range of environmental conditions across the Mediterranean region, including arid, semiarid, and humid environments. On montane (cold subhumid and humid) Mediterranean landscapes, harsh thermal conditions on north-facing hillslopes favour intense bedrock weathering by freezing and impose serious constraints on plant colonization. The above are the customary arguments to explain the high abundance of montane badlands on north-exposed shady aspects. We studied the distribution and morphological diversity of badlands in the upper Llobregat basin (Catalan Pyrenees, NE Spain), using remote sensing information (high-resolution orthophotos and complementary Landsat 8 imagery), digital elevation data, and regional information on lithology. Badlands extend over about 200 ha in the upper Llobregat basin and occur on two different parent materials, swelling (smectite-rich) continental Garumnian lutites of late Cretaceous age, and nonswelling (illitic) marine Eocene marls. Vegetation, assessed by remote-sensed vegetation greenness, is less developed on north-facing badland slopes. However, badland slope-aspect distribution varies considerably with lithology. While badlands on Eocene marls show preferential distribution on north-facing shady slopes, badland occurrence on Garumnian lutites does not reveal clear slope-aspect anisotropy patterns. Lithology also affects slope gradient, with badlands on Eocene marls showing rougher topography (30–40° average slope angle) than on Garumnian lutites (20–30°). Badland morphological differences induced by lithology are discussed in terms of the greater weathering susceptibility and slope instability of the swelling, smectite-rich Garumnian lutites than of the nonswelling Eocene marls. Elevation, which broadly controls annual precipitation and winter air temperature within the region, shows no clear influence on badland distribution. Overall, our results reveal lithology as the main factor controlling badland distribution and morphological diversity under the montane Mediterranean conditions of the upper Llobregat basin. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.
Versión del editor10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.08.004
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