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Article
Nature 379, 505 - 510 (08 February 1996); doi:10.1038/379505a0

Bedrock incision, rock uplift and threshold hillslopes in the northwestern Himalayas

Douglas W. Burbank*, John Leland, Eric Fielding, Robert S. Anderson§, Nicholas Brozovic*, Mary R. Reid & Christopher Duncan

* Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-0740, USA
Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109, USA
§ Department of Earth Sciences and Institute of Tectonics, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
Institute for the Study of the Continents, Department of Geological Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

The topography of tectonically active mountain ranges reflects a poorly understood competition between bedrock uplift and erosion. Dating of abandoned river-cut surfaces in the northwestern Himalayas reveals that the Indus river incises through the bedrock at extremely high rates (2–12 mm yr-1). In the surrounding mountains, the average angles of hillslopes are steep and essentially independent of erosion rate, suggesting control by a common threshold process. In this rapidly deforming region, an equilibrium is maintained between bedrock uplift and river incision, with landsliding allowing hillslopes to adjust efficiently to rapid river down-cutting.

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