Terrestrial slopes in northern high latitudes: A paradigm shift regarding sediment origin, composition, and dynamic evolution
Review articleOpen access

AbstractHigh-Arctic terrestrial slopes have received limited systematic research interest, but increased vulnerability related to regional warming has driven the call for better knowledge of the dynamics of these systems. Studies of sediment transport from a plateau area in Adventdalen, Svalbard, and associated slopes extending to sea level demonstrate that glacial processes play a more prominent role than earlier anticipated, − especially the impact of glacial meltwater. Traces of drainage at the plateau and the dissection of the plateau edge and upper slope were clearly initiated during various stages of Late Glacial runoff. Further, there is a close association between the sediment distribution and composition at the plateau and the evolution of various types of slopes. The reconstructed sedimentation history shows that the landscape will undergo four stages with contrasting modes of sediment transport: 1) subglacial processes related to active ice, 2) processes related to the margin of active ice, 3) processes related to the melting of inactive ice, and 4) nonglacial processes. These stages form four successions, referred to as supply regimes A–D, which control the supply of water and sediments to a given slope segment. In this landscape, traces of glacial meltwater occur at most altitudes, in “odd” positions and in slope segments “without” catchments. The associated depocenters (isolated, composite or coalescing into aprons), are often outsized compared to the apparent slope catchment. Reworked glacial sediments form a significant part of the slope-debris but are covered partly or entirely by products of physical weathering. Colluvium, senso stricto, thus masks a distinct system shift related to the local termination of glacial meltwater. Consequently, the weathering part of the slope sediment budget in this region is considerably overestimated.

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