Abstract

Soil development can significantly influence the topographic evolution of a tectonically deforming mountain piedmont. Faults and folds associated with the North Frontal thrust system deform piedmont sediments of variable compositions along the north flank of the San Bernardino Mountains. The topographic expressions of folds with similar structural characteristics diverge appreciably, primarily as a function of differences in sediment composition and associated soil development. Soils with petrocalcic horizons in limestone- rich deposits are resistant to erosion, and anticlinal folds form prominent ridges. Folds forming in granite-derived deposits with argillic soil horizons are eroded and/or buried and are therefore topographically less pronounced. We propose that these landform contrasts can be explained by differences in soil-controlled hydrologic and erosion characteristics of deposits without calling upon changes in tectonic style along the mountain front.

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