Alluvial and fluvial fans are the most widespread depositional landforms bordering the margins of long-lived highland regions and actively subsiding continental basins, across a broad spectrum of tectonic and climatic settings. Their significance is relevant not only to the local morphodynamics of mountain regions and proximal basinal sectors, but also to the long-term evolution of sediment-routing systems, affecting the propagation of stratigraphic signals of environmental change and the preservation potential of stratal successions over much larger spatial scales than those they occupy. Subaerial fan systems archive information on the palaeoclimate, local tectonic history and landscape response to various allogenic factors, although our ability to decipher such information is still limited. Early recognition of alluvial fans dates from the late nineteenth century, but a coordinated research community on these systems has been active only over the last few decades and the full relevance of fluvial fan systems to the geomorphology of present day continental basins and to the interpretation of ancient stratigraphic successions has been convincingly demonstrated only over the last decade. This introductory chapter summarizes advances in our knowledge of alluvial and fluvial fans, identifies potential new lines of future inquiry, and presents the contributions to this volume in the context of the current state of research.
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Alluvial and fluvial fans are the most widespread depositional landform bordering the margins of highland regions and actively subsiding continental basins, across a broad spectrum of tectonic and climatic settings. They are significant to the local morphodynamics of mountain regions and also to the evolution of sediment-routing systems, affecting the propagation and preservation of stratigraphic signals of environmental change over vast areas.
The volume presents case studies discussing the geology and geomorphology of alluvial and fluvial fans from both active systems and ancient ones preserved in the stratigraphic record. It brings together case studies from a range of continents, climatic and tectonic settings, some introducing innovative monitoring and analysis techniques, and it provides an overview of current debates in the field.
This volume will be of particular interest to geologists, geomorphologists, sedimentologists and the general reader with an interest in Earth science.