Desert fluvial terraces and their relationship with basin development in the Sonoran Desert, basin and range: case studies from south-central Arizona

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A fundamental gap in geomorphic scholarship regards fluvial terraces in small desert drainages and those terraces associated with integrating drainages. This dissertation analyzes four field-based case studies within the Sonoran

A fundamental gap in geomorphic scholarship regards fluvial terraces in small desert drainages and those terraces associated with integrating drainages. This dissertation analyzes four field-based case studies within the Sonoran Desert, south-central Arizona, with the overriding purpose of developing a theory to explain the formative processes and spatial distribution of fluvial terraces in the region. Strath terraces are a common form (Chapters 2, 3, 4) and are created at the expense of bounding pediments that occur on the margins of constraining mountainous drainage boundaries (Chapters 1, 2, 3). Base-level fluctuations of the major drainages cause the formation of new straths at lower elevations. Dramatic pediment adjustment and subsequent regrading follows (Chapter 3), where pediments regrade to strath floodplains. This linkage between pediments and their distal straths is termed the pediment-strath relationship. Stability of the base level of the major drainage leads to lateral migration and straths are carved at the expense of bounding pediments through an erosional asymmetry facilitated by differential rock decay between the channel bank and bed. Fill terraces occur within the Salt River drainage basin as a result of the integration processes that connect formerly endorheic basins (Chapter 4). The topographic, spatial, and sedimentologic relationship of the Stewart Mountain terrace (Chapter 4) points to a different genetic origin than the lower terraces in this basin. The high Stewart Mountain fill terrace records the initial integration of this river. The strath terraces inset below the Stewart Mountain terrace are a result of the pediment-strath relationship. These case studies also reveal that the under-addressed drainage processes of piracy and overflow have significant impacts in the evolution of drainages the lead to both strath and fill terrace formation in this region.