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Fluvial–Eolian Interactions In Sediment Routing and Sedimentary Signal Buffering: An Example From the Indus Basin and Thar Desert
Sediment production and its subsequent preservation in the marine stratigraphic record offshore of large rivers are linked by complex sediment-transfer systems. To interpret the stratigraphic record it is critical to understand how environmental signals transfer from sedimentary source regions to depositional sinks, and in particular to understand the role of buffering in obscuring climatic or tectonic signals. In dryland regions, signal buffering can include sediment cycling through linked fluvial and eolian systems. We investigate sediment-routing connectivity between the Indus River and the Thar Desert, where fluvial and eolian systems exchanged sediment over large spatial scales (hundreds of kilometers). Summer monsoon winds recycle sediment from the lower Indus River and delta northeastward, i.e., downwind and upstream, into the desert. Far-field eolian recycling of Indus sediment is important enough to control sediment provenance at the downwind end of the desert substantially, although the proportion of Indus sediment of various ages varies regionally within the desert; dune sands in the northwestern Thar Desert resemble the late Holocene–Recent Indus delta, requiring short transport and reworking times. On smaller spatial scales (1–10 m) along fluvial channels in the northern Thar Desert, there is also stratigraphic evidence of fluvial and eolian sediment reworking from local rivers. In terms of sediment volume, we estimate that the Thar Desert could be a more substantial sedimentary store than all other known buffer regions in the Indus basin combined. Thus, since the mid-Holocene, when the desert expanded as the summer monsoon rainfall decreased, fluvial–eolian recycling has been an important but little recognized process buffering sediment flux to the ocean. Similar fluvial–eolian connectivity likely also affects sediment routing and signal transfer in other dryland regions globally.
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