Abstract

Holocene alluvial landforms in the Macgillycuddy's Reeks, southwest Ireland, were investigated to determine the controls and timing of postglacial geomorphic activity. Detailed geomorphologic analysis of three alluvial-fan and debris cones within high-level cirque basins demonstrates evidence of episodic phases of late Holocene surface aggradation and incision. Radiocarbon dates from peat horizons above and below inorganic units show that phases of aggradation cluster into two distinct periods, the first after 230–790 calibrated (cal.) yr A.D. and the second from 1510 cal. yr A.D. to the present. An additional phase of fan aggradation at one site is dated after 1040–1280 cal. yr A.D. All three phases coincide with episodes of enhanced late Holocene valley-floor alluviation and debris-flow activity from upland Britain. Alluvial fans and debris cones have developed primarily as a result of the resedimentation of late Midlandian (Wisconsin) drift and talus slopes, and mobilization of materials involved flooding, transitional-flow, and debris-flow processes. Pollen analysis of peat horizons interbedded with alluvial-fan and debris-cone sediments indicates that land-use changes were an important factor in lowering the threshold for local slope erosion. Phases of aggradation also coincide with well-documented episodes of climate change, and, hence, fan development is probably a function of both anthropogenic and climatic forcing. A sequence of events may have involved initial slope destabilization due to overgrazing and removal of vegetation that was followed by debris mobilization and fan aggradation during intense rainstorms associated with climate change.

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