Geomorphic analysis of transient landscapes in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and Maya Mountains (northern Central America): implications for the North American–Caribbean–Cocos plate boundary
- 1TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institut für Geologie, Freiberg, Germany
- 2Division of Exploration Technology, Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology, Freiberg, Germany
Abstract. We use a geomorphic approach in order to unravel the recent evolution of the diffuse triple junction between the North American, Caribbean, and Cocos plates in northern Central America. We intend to characterize and understand the complex tectonic setting that produced an intricate pattern of landscapes using tectonic geomorphology, as well as available geological and geophysical data. We classify regions with specific relief characteristics and highlight uplifted relict landscapes in northern Central America. We also analyze the drainage network from the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and Maya Mountains in order to extract information about potential vertical displacements.
Our results suggest that most of the landscapes of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and Maya Mountains are in a transient stage. Topographic profiles and morphometric maps highlight elevated relict surfaces that are characterized by a low-amplitude relief. The river longitudinal profiles display upper reaches witnessing these relict landscapes. Lower reaches adjust to new base-level conditions and are characterized by multiple knickpoints.
These results backed by published GPS and seismotectonic data allow us to refine and extend existing geodynamic models of the triple junction. Relict landscapes are delimited by faults and thus result from a tectonic control. The topography of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas evolved as the result of (1) the inland migration of deformation related to the coupling between the Chiapas Massif and the Cocos forearc sliver and (2) the compression along the northern tip of the Central American volcanic arc. Although most of the shortening between the Cocos forearc sliver and the North American Plate is accommodated within the Sierra de Chiapas and Sierra de los Cuchumatanes, a small part may be still transmitted to the Maya Mountains and the Belize margin through a "rigid" Petén Basin.