Interaction between normal fault slip and erosion on relief evolution: Insights from experimental modelling

V. Strak*, S. Dominguez, C. Petit, B. Meyer, N. Loget

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The growth of relief in active tectonic areas is mainly controlled by the interactions between tectonics and surface processes (erosion and sedimentation). The study of long-lived morphologic markers formed by these interactions can help in quantifying the competing effects of tectonics, erosion and sedimentation. In regions experiencing active extension, river-long profiles and faceted spurs (triangular facets) can help in understanding the development of mountainous topography along normal fault scarps. In this study, we developed analogue experiments that simulate the morphologic evolution of a mountain range bounded by a normal fault. This paper focuses on the effect of the fault slip rate on the morphologic evolution of the footwall by performing three analogue experiments with different fault slip rates under a constant rainfall rate. A morphometric analysis of the modelled catchments allows comparing with a natural case (Tunka half-graben, Siberia). After a certain amount of fault slip, the modelled footwall topographies of our models reaches a dynamic equilibrium (i.e., erosion balances tectonic uplift relative to the base level) close to the fault, whereas the topography farther from the fault is still being dissected due to regressive erosion. We show that the rates of vertical erosion in the area where dynamic equilibrium is reached and the rate of regressive erosion are linearly correlated with the fault throw rate. Facet morphology seems to depend on the fault slip rate except for the fastest experiment where faceted spurs are degraded due to mass wasting. A stream-power law is computed for the area wherein rivers reach a topographic equilibrium. We show that the erosional capacity of the system depends on the fault slip rate. Finally, our results demonstrate the possibility of preserving convex river-long profiles on the long-term under steady external (tectonic uplift and rainfall) conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2011


  • Active normal fault
  • Drainage basin
  • Experimental modelling
  • Relief dynamics
  • River-long profile
  • Triangular facet


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