Influence of mantle flow on the drainage of eastern Australia since the Jurassic period

Author List: Tristan Salles, Nicolas Flament & Dietmar Müller.

Citation: Salles, Tristan & Flament, Nicolas & Müller, Dietmar. (2017). Influence of mantle flow on the drainage of eastern Australia since the Jurassic Period. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems. 18. . 10.1002/2016GC006617.


Recent studies of the past eastern Australian landscape from present-day longitudinal river profiles and from mantle flow models suggest that the interaction of plate motion with mantle convection accounts for the two phases of large-scale uplift of the region since 120 Ma. We coupled the dynamic topography predicted from one of these mantle flow models to a surface process model to study the evolution of the eastern Australian landscape since the Jurassic Period. We varied the rainfall regime, erodibility, sea level variations, dynamic topography magnitude, and elastic thickness across a series of experiments. The approach accounts for erosion and sedimentation and simulates catchment dynamics. Despite the relative simplicity of our model, the results provide insights on the fundamental links between dynamic topography and continental-scale drainage evolution. Based on temporal and spatial changes in longitudinal river profiles as well as erosion and deposition maps, we show that the motion of the Australian plate over the convecting mantle has resulted in significant reorganization of the eastern Australian drainage. The model predicts that the Murray river drained eastward between 150 and 120 Ma, and switched to westward draining due to the tilting of the Australian plate from 120 Ma. First order comparisons of eight modeled river profiles and of the catchment shape of modeled Murray-Darling Basin are in agreement with present-day observations. The predicted denudation of the eastern highlands is compatible with thermochronology data and sedimentation rates along the southern Australian margin are consistent with cumulative sediment thickness.

Full paper available from ResearchGate

Dynamic models available from GitHub