Application of in-situ cosmogenic nuclide analysis to landform evolution in Dartmoor, south-west Britain
Hägg, Joseph Hunter
Located beyond the southern limit of glaciation in Britain, the upland granitic terrain of Dartmoor, south-west England, has been exposed to long intervals of intense periglacial activity during the Pleistocene. This region has been significant in debates about appropriate models of long-term landscape change, most notably two-phase versus single-phase models of landform evolution, and the development of tors. However, given the previous lack of quantitative techniques capable of constraining denudation and specific process rates, and thereby testing developmental models for these features, there remains much uncertainty in the interpretation of the classic landforms of the region. This study measures concentrations of the cosmogenic nuclide 10Be produced in-situ in quartz within the upper few metres of the Earth surface. These reflect the history of near-surface exposure to cosmic radiation of sampled material, and allow for the interpretation of exposure age and/or erosion rates of the land surface. This research utilises these cosmogenic nuclide values to evaluate geomorphological processes and investigate key aspects of landform development. These include the formation of tors in non-glaciated regions, the development of regolith and boulderfields under periglacial conditions, and the derivation of catchment-averaged denudation rates. This study provides the first quantitative measurement of erosion on tor surfaces in Dartmoor, with typical rates of 14-45 mm ka-1. These are relatively high and comparable to other components of the landscape. In addition, there is no clear relationship of cosmogenic nuclide concentration to tor dimensions. It is shown that the tors are dynamic landforms and simple, two-stage development is an inappropriate model. Catchment-averaged denudation rates are derived and these long-term rates of 20-94 mm ka-1 are significantly higher than modern, short-term values. Finally, downslope transport in a palaeo-periglacial blockslope is investigated using 10Be concentrations. This variety of landforms and scale of investigation facilitates an integrated approach to the understanding of catchment-scale erosional dynamics. In addition, the complex nature of landform development that is evident in the area provides challenges to the application of in-situ cosmogenic nuclides and highlights both the potential and limitations of the technique.