Abstract

The Mediterranean catchment of the Cevennes (S. France) presents deep incision of the river network (fig. 1 and 2). Combined geomorphology and analyses of the residual sedimentary formations allows to reconstruct a complex history of river network evolution, including capture of tributaries of the Herault River (fig. 1, 2 and 3). The history of uplift of the upstream drainage area could be estimated from the provenance studies of the fluvial and karstic deposits, however river incision is also controlled sea-level changes and differential erosion, which makes reconstruction more complex. Allochthonous clasts types: Analyses of allochthonous deposits on the Grands Causses surface reveals different origin for sediments from the hill top and the Airoles valley (fig. 4 b), which was previously unrecognised. Facies 1 is found on the highest points of the Grands Causses surface (well sorted rounded quartz pebbles in red shale matrix) it corresponds to a weathered residual sediments (dismantling of an ancient cover). Facies 2 is found on the slope of the Airoles Valley (fig. 7). It consists of alluvial crystalline poorly sorted clasts with outsized clasts (up to 50 cm) of quartz-vein, schists in a matrix of shales and sand (weathered granite). Between the hill tops and the Airoles Valley, karstic network presents a sediment fill with clasts reworked from facies 1 and facies 2 (fig. 6). Airoles valley model; an example of diachronic formation of drainage network: The Airoles dry valley stretches on the Grands Causses from the north (700 m) to the south into the present thalweg line of the Vis canyon (500 m) (fig. 1b & 3). Crystalline deposits witness an ancient catchment in the Cevennes. Presently, the catchment in the crystalline basement is disconnected and captured by the Arre River flowing eastwards (fig. 3 & 4a). The profile of the Airoles abandoned valley connects with the present Vis Canyon, therefore, at the time of capture, incision of the Vis canyon had reached its present altitude (fig. 4a). The geomorphologic evolution of this area took place in three stages (fig. 8). 1) The Grands Causses acted as piedmont for the crystalline highlands of the Massif Central (fig. 8A). A latter karstic evolution (tropical climate) allowed the weathered residual sediments (facies 1) (fig. 8A). 2) Incision of the Vis karstic canyon implies that the Herault incision and terraces (facies 2) (fig. 8B) of the Airoles valley occurred during this stage. 3) The Arre valley head propagates westward by regressive erosion and finally captured the Airoles river crystalline catchment (fig. 8C). Consequence for the Cevennes uplift and hydrographic network development: Although the values of present vertical incision in the Vis canyon and in the Arre valley are similar, but they achieved at different time. In addition, the narrow and deep canyon of the Vis is due to vertical incision from the karstic surface of the Grands Causses, whereas the Arre wide valley results from (a younger) lateral slopes retreat from a low Herault base-level. The Vis karstic canyon developed in a similar way to the major karstic canyons of both Mediterranean and Atlantic catchment (i.e. Tarn). This rules out a Messinian Mediterranean desiccation as incision driving mechanism and suggests tectonic uplift of the Cevennes and surrounding areas. The Tarn being already incised by 13 My [Ambert, 1990], it implies a Miocene age for the incision. Conclusion: The amplitude of the vertical incision cannot therefore be used in a simple way to interpret the uplift history of the basement. Consequently, geomorphologic analysis appears to be a prerequisite to distinguish the part played by each factor, and to select the site of uplift measurement.

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