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Scotland's denudational history: an integrated view of erosion and sedimentation at an uplifted passive margin

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  • Gb Physical Geography
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  • Earth Science

Abstract

Denudational history is commonly reconstructed from basin sediments derived from the denuded source area, and less frequently from the source area itself. Northern Britain is an important source area for the surrounding sedimentary basins and this paper reviews the erosional history of Scotland from Devonian time to the present using evidence both from onshore geology and geomorphology and from patterns of sedimentation in surrounding basins. Cover rocks were extensive in Scotland during late Palaeozoic time but the persistence of sediment source areas within the upland areas of Scotland makes it unlikely that basement highs were ever completely buried, and depths of post-Devonian erosion of basement have been correspondingly modest (< 1–2 km). During Mesozoic time, Scotland experienced several major erosional cycles, beginning with uplift, reactivation of relief and stripping of cover rocks, followed by progressive reduction of relief through etchplanation and culminating in extensive marine transgressions in Late Triassic, Late Jurassic and Late Cretaceous time. Mid-Paleocene pulses of coarse sediment to the Moray Firth Basin coincided with major uplift. This uplift was associated with major differential tectonics within the Highlands, with warping and faulting along the margins of the Minch and the inner Moray Firth Basins. Tectonic activity was renewed on a lesser scale in late Oligocene time and continued into Late Neogene time. Differential weathering and erosion under the warm to temperature humid climates of Neogene time created the major elements of the preglacial relief, with formation of valleys, basins, scarps and inselbergs, features often closely adjusted to lithostructural controls and, in some cases, with precursors that can be traced back to Devonian time. The history that can be 'read' from the onshore region complements the source area history interpreted from sedimentary basins derived from these areas.

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