Articles | Volume 5, issue 3
Research article
04 Jul 2017
Research article |  | 04 Jul 2017

Bayesian inversion of a CRN depth profile to infer Quaternary erosion of the northwestern Campine Plateau (NE Belgium)

Eric Laloy, Koen Beerten, Veerle Vanacker, Marcus Christl, Bart Rogiers, and Laurent Wouters

Abstract. The rate at which low-lying sandy areas in temperate regions, such as the Campine Plateau (NE Belgium), have been eroding during the Quaternary is a matter of debate. Current knowledge on the average pace of landscape evolution in the Campine area is largely based on geological inferences and modern analogies. We performed a Bayesian inversion of an in situ-produced 10Be concentration depth profile to infer the average long-term erosion rate together with two other parameters: the surface exposure age and the inherited 10Be concentration. Compared to the latest advances in probabilistic inversion of cosmogenic radionuclide (CRN) data, our approach has the following two innovative components: it (1) uses Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling and (2) accounts (under certain assumptions) for the contribution of model errors to posterior uncertainty. To investigate to what extent our approach differs from the state of the art in practice, a comparison against the Bayesian inversion method implemented in the CRONUScalc program is made. Both approaches identify similar maximum a posteriori (MAP) parameter values, but posterior parameter and predictive uncertainty derived using the method taken in CRONUScalc is moderately underestimated. A simple way for producing more consistent uncertainty estimates with the CRONUScalc-like method in the presence of model errors is therefore suggested. Our inferred erosion rate of 39 ± 8. 9 mm kyr−1 (1σ) is relatively large in comparison with landforms that erode under comparable (paleo-)climates elsewhere in the world. We evaluate this value in the light of the erodibility of the substrate and sudden base level lowering during the Middle Pleistocene. A denser sampling scheme of a two-nuclide concentration depth profile would allow for better inferred erosion rate resolution, and including more uncertain parameters in the MCMC inversion.

Short summary
Over very long timescales, 100 000 years or more, landscapes may drastically change. Sediments preserved in these landscapes have a cosmogenic radionuclide inventory that tell us when and how fast such changes took place. In this paper, we provide first evidence of an elevated long-term erosion rate of the northwestern Campine Plateau (lowland Europe), which can be explained by the loose nature of the subsoil.