Neotectonics, flooding patterns and landscape evolution in southern Amazonia
- Universität Bern, Geographisches Institut, Hallerstrasse 12, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Abstract. The paper examines the role of neotectonic activity in the evolution of the landscape in southern Amazonia during the Holocene. It uses both new and published data based on the analysis of remote sensing imagery and extensive field work in the Llanos de Moxos, Bolivian Amazon. The study of the region's modern and palaeorivers, ria lakes, palaeosols and topography provides a strong case in favour of the thesis that the northern part of the Llanos de Moxos constitutes the southern margin of the Fitzcarrald Arch and that it has experienced uplift during the Holocene. The paper assesses the extent and timing of the neotectonic activity in light of the new data and reconstructs the evolution of the landscape since the late Pleistocene. The evidence suggests that at least two uplift events took place: a first uplift in the late Pleistocene, which caused the formation of Lake Oceano, and a second uplift during the mid-Holocene, which formed Lake Rogaguado. These two uplifts appear to be linked to the knickpoints observed close to the towns of Guayaramerín and Puerto Siles respectively. The backwater effect due to these uplifts transformed the region's major rivers in seasonal ria lakes, causing the deposition of thick organic clay layers along the Beni, Mamoré and Madre de Dios river banks. I argue that neotectonic episodes could have dramatically changed the drainage of the Llanos de Moxos, determining its flooding regime, soil properties and forest–savannah ecotone. These results stress the need for geomorphologists, palaeo-ecologists and archaeologists to take into account neotectonics when reconstructing the region's past.