Climate regulation of erosion in unglaciated landscapes remains difficult to decipher. While climate may disrupt process feedbacks that would otherwise steer landscapes toward steady erosion, sediment transport processes tend to erase past climate landforms and thus bias landscape evolution interpretations. Here, we couple a 50 k.y. paleoenvironmental record with 24 10Be-derived paleo-erosion rates from a 63-m-thick sediment archive in the unglaciated soil-mantled Oregon Coast Range. Our results span the forested marine oxygen isotope stage (MIS) 3 (50−29 ka), the subalpine MIS 2 (29−14 ka), and the forested MIS 1 (14 ka to present). From 46 ka through 28.5 ka, erosion rates increased from 0.06 mm yr−1 to 0.23 mm yr−1, coincident with declining temperatures. Mean MIS 2 erosion rates remained at 0.21 mm yr−1 and declined with increasing MIS 1 temperatures to the modern mean rate of 0.08 mm yr−1. Paleoclimate reconstructions and a frost-weathering model suggest periglacial processes were vigorous between 35 and 17 ka. While steady erosion is often assumed, our results suggest that climate strongly modulates soil production and transport on glacial-interglacial time scales. By applying a cosmogenic paleo-erosion model to evaluate 10Be concentrations in our sedimentary archive, we demonstrate that the depth of soil mixing (which is climate-dependent) controls the lag time required for cosmogenic erosion rates to track actual values. Our results challenge the widely held assumption that climate has minimal impact on erosion rates in unglaciated midlatitude terrain, which invites reconsideration of the extent to which past climate regimes manifest in modern landscapes.
- Received 6 February 2016.
- Revision received 29 August 2016.
- Accepted 26 November 2016.
- © Geological Society of America