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Drainage evolution in intermontane basins at the Qinling-Daba Mountains

Abstract

River capture is of great significance to landform evolution and hominine migration. In the Qinling-Daba Mountains, there is a viewpoint that Jialing River captured Hanjiang River, but this is still controversial. In this paper, we discuss the drainage evolution processes in intermountain basins at the Qinling-Daba Mountains based on a combination of detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology and geomorphic indexes. We suggest that the Hanjiang River gradually captured the Jialing River from east to west, accompanied by the evolution of the ancient Yangtze River. In terms of geomorphic evidences, wide valleys did not match with discharge, and a series of wind gaps developed in the Shiquan-Ankang basin. In addition, the valley shapes and width-to-height ratios (Vf) indicate two possible rapid incisions. The hypsometric integrals (HI) reflect that the landform gradually changes from the old stage to the youth stage from west to east. The χ values show that the drainage divide is moving to the side of the Yuehe River, and the Yuehe River is gradually shrinking. According to the sedimentary records, the zircon U-Pb age distributions indicate the provenance change. The high-altitude terraces show three age peaks (200–250, 400–505, and 700–900 Ma), with the dominant Indosinian age peak (200–250 Ma), while the modern fluvial sediments only show a single peak of Jinning (700–900 Ma). These data show that there are two major river captures: (1) The ancient Hanjiang River cut through the regional compression ridge, and then captured the Hanzhong Basin river system (a part of the ancient Jialing river system) from east to west, and (2) The southern tributary captured the trunk with the uplift of the divide in the Shiquan-Ankang Basin, forming the modern drainage pattern in the upper Hanjiang River. The activities of the regional strike-slip fault, and the associated compression uplift played a key role in the river captures, the drainage evolution, and related landforms in the Shiquan-Ankang basin. In addition, it is shown that the evolution of the upper tributary basins lagged behind the response of the trunk channel to the tectonic activities and river captures. The interconnected wide valleys caused by river capture may have provided convenient geomorphological conditions for human migration into the Qinling-Daba Mountains along those river valleys.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Jef Vandenberhe and Ronald Van Balen for their encouragement of this work. We also thank Yang Yu, Xun Yang, Linman Gao, and Qi Su for their fieldwork assistance. We extend our appreciation to the responsible editor and two anonymous reviewers for providing thoughtful insights and constructive suggestions. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41971005, 41522101, 41901004), the Second Tibet Plateau Scientific Research (Grant No. 2019QZKK0205), and the Major Program of National Social Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 19ZDA225).

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Xie, W., Wang, X., Zhang, H. et al. Drainage evolution in intermontane basins at the Qinling-Daba Mountains. Sci. China Earth Sci. 64, 1949–1968 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-020-9820-y

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Keywords

  • Geomorphic index
  • Zircon U-Pb geochronology
  • Drainage network pattern
  • River capture
  • Ankang fault
  • Intermountain basin
  • South Qinling