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Granite geomorphology and its geological controls, Serra da Estrela, Portugal

DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2014.07.027
  • Rock Control
  • Granite Geomorphology
  • Tors
  • Digital Elevation Models
  • Portugal
  • Earth Science


Abstract Serra da Estrela is an elevated granite massif in central Portugal, characterized by extensive plateau surfaces incised by deep valleys affected by Quaternary glaciation, bounded by steep fault-generated escarpments. The presence of seven major textural variants of granite provides an opportunity to study the relationships between lithology and relief, whereas DEM analysis helped to show the relationships between lithology and topography objectively. The higher ground is associated with fine- to medium-grained granites and is typified by planar surfaces of low gradient, with occasional angular tors and rock pedestals. Block fields built by angular material are common in the parts that were not previously glaciated. Less elevated parts of the plateau are supported by medium- to coarse-grained granites and show more varied topography, with an abundance of tors, boulder piles, and depressions. Lithological boundaries locally coincide with slope breaks but this is not the rule. In the northern part of the massif a deep topographic basin has evolved in biotite granite, whereas deeply incised valleys follow major fault lines. Geological controls show a hierarchy, in that gross relief reflects the pattern of tectonic uplift and subsidence, whereas lithology and then fracture patterns become more and more important if one focuses on smaller and smaller landforms.

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