Structural separation of river flow regimes and paleo-landscape decoupling: a case study on the Indus River, northwest Himalayas.
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New evidence derived from remotely sensed data using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) on the Indus River and its tributaries suggests that structural features of the area’s geology exert a much greater influence than was previously thought. A very large knickpoint is present on both the Indus and Shyok rivers at the point they cross the Karakorum Fault, a large transfer fault that runs northwest-southeast through the region. These knickpoints occur at the same elevation of 4000m asl. Above these knickpoints the rivers have shallow, concave longitudinal profiles as they run across the low relief Tibetan Plateau. These findings suggest the Karakorum Fault forms the boundary between the Plateau and the mountain front. The theory proposed to explain this involves the strike slip nature of the fault. The Indus is sourced to the east of the fault, but exits the mountain range west of the fault. As the land is moved apart by the fault, the sourcepoint is moved further from the point of exit, stretching the longitudinal distance of the river. It is suggested that this extension of the river flow length is preventing the knickpoints from propagating beyond the fault, resulting in the maintenance of an equilibrated landscape to the northwest despite significant uplift.