Abstract

The northern Swiss Alpine Foreland exemplifies a highly transient landscape characterized by multiple knickzones along the trunk valleys and distinct bedrock straths at their junction with tributary valleys. This landscape has evolved as a result of fast base level changes in response to repeated glaciations during the Quaternary. As the archives related to the evolution of this transient landscape are scarce, available quantitative information is limited, especially for the early and middle Pleistocene. In order to track the pace of the landscape evolution in the northern Swiss Alpine Foreland during the Pleistocene, in this study, we focus on the Deckenschotter sequences, the oldest Quaternary terrestrial sedimentary archives on the northern margin of the Central European Alps. These deposits have been morphostratigraphically divided into two: Höhere (Higher; HDS) and Tiefere (Lower; TDS) Deckenschotter. We analyzed seven different sites extending from Basel in the west to Schaffhausen in the east of Switzerland for the provenance signal, and we dated these archives by depth-profile and isochron-burial dating techniques with 10Be, 26Al, and 36Cl. Investigations on the petrographic compositions of the deposits revealed distinct provenances for the HDS and TDS deposits. During HDS time, the Alpine Rhine drained through Lake Constance and into the Danube River. Rerouting of the river toward the west and into the Upper Rhine Valley occurred between the end of HDS and the beginning of TDS accumulation. The results of the depth-profile and isochron-burial dating suggest that the HDS deposits accumulated at around 2 Ma as a result of a first widespread Alpine glaciation, whereas the TDS was deposited at around 1 Ma. Based on the provenance and the chronological information, we propose a scenario where the Rhine River captured the Alpine sources of the Danube and thus increased its runoff and enhanced its baseline lowering. Consequently, the landscape evolution has been accelerated possibly in response not only to the larger runoff but also to the climate change associated with the mid-Pleistocene revolution.

You do not currently have access to this article.