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Geomorphological processes and landforms of glacier forelands in the upper Aktru River basin (Gornyi Altai), Russia: evidence for rapid recent retreat and paraglacial adjustment

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Abstract

The glaciers in the Aktru River basin of Gornyi Altai, Russia currently represent some of the fastest receding glaciers in the world. Formation of the morainic complexes closest to the contemporary glaciers in the Aktru River basin took place during the 17th - 18th centuries with recession commencing at the end of the 18th century. Coupled with this glacial retreat, earth surface processes and vegetation succession are responding to shape the glacier forelands. This article presents the first geomorphological maps for the upper reaches of the Aktru River basin and focuses on the geomorphological landforms that occur in the rapidly changing glacier forelands. Geomorphological mapping is difficult in steep mountainous regions and, thus, mapping was completed using satellite imagery, field mapping and observations coupled with highresolution aerial photography obtained from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Critical steps of the procedure used to process UAV imagery and difficulties encountered in this mountainous terrain are noted. The acquired spatial data enable the mapping and classification of small-scale transient geomorphological features such as talus, glacial and glaciofluvial landforms. Their dynamics provide insights into supraglacial and subglacial processes of the glaciers of the Aktru River basin and subsequent paraglacial adjustment. The presented highresolution spatial data, which can also be obtained at high temporal resolutions in the future, can act as a reference frame for geomorphologists and ecologists studying the temporal evolution of glacier forelands of the Aktru River basin during paraglacial adjustment and subsequent colonisation and stabilisation by biota.

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Acknowledgement

David W. Hedding gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided through the Incentive Funding for Rated Researchers Programme from the National Research Foundation South Africa. Christel D. Hansen and D.W. Hedding received financial support via the BRICS Network University International Thematic Groups Seed-Funding. Aleksander A. Erofeev was supported by the Tomsk State University Competitive Improvement Programme (Project no. 8.1.32.2018).

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Hedding, D.W., Erofeev, A.A., Hansen, C.D. et al. Geomorphological processes and landforms of glacier forelands in the upper Aktru River basin (Gornyi Altai), Russia: evidence for rapid recent retreat and paraglacial adjustment. J. Mt. Sci. 17, 824–837 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-019-5845-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-019-5845-5

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