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Origin and Holocene geomorphological evolution of the landslide-dammed basin of la Narse de la Sauvetat (Massif Central, France)

Abstract : This work is the first geomorphological analysis of La Narse de la Sauvetat, a hydromorphic basin located in the southern Limagne plain (French Massif Central) which had never been studied despite its great palaeoenvironmental interest. We explore the potential of its sedimentary archives to provide valuable data on Holocene geomorphic dynamics and their sensitivity to local and regional hydro-climatic changes. In order to characterize the nature and the morphostratigraphic and pedosedimentary evolution of the basin, we used an integrative approach involving geomorphological mapping, hand auger stratigraphic cross-sections, topographic analysis based on LiDAR data and stereophotogrammetric reconstruction, geophysical prospection and radiocarbon dating. Results revealed a palaeotopography fossilized under 6 m of sedimentary infilling, with a clear shift from fluvial to hydromorphic conditions circa 2800 cal BCE, separated by a level with colluvial and lacustrine features. A detailed analysis of the eastern border of the basin also suggests the existence of a former open valley in place of the current closed depression, now locked in by a topographic threshold forming a dam. The sedimentary aggradation of the basin started with an alluvial phase during the Upper Pleistocene and probably continued into the Middle and Late Holocene, consistently with regional alluvial dynamics. In the early Subboreal, a massive landslide occurred on the western slopes of the Puy-de-Corent volcanic plateau, thereby damming the valley and forming a closed depression. This episode coincided with the mid-Holocene climatic shift and an associated phase of slope instability and increased landslides in Western Europe due to changing climatic conditions. This depression evolved into a hydromorphic basin with several high energy hydro-sedimentary episodes after 2800 cal BCE; however hydro-sedimentary conditions gradually became more stable towards the Late Holocene. Around 500 cal CE, the drainage deteriorated towards palustrine conditions and caused the formation of a marsh and its consequent evolution into a shallow lake throughout the Middle Ages. This lake was drained in the late XVIIIth Century. The long-term sedimentary record of La Narse de la Sauvetat, sensitive to climatic instability periods of the Middle Holocene, makes this landslide-dammed basin a valuable site with an important potential to further development of palaeoenvironmental and geoarchaeological studies.
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Alfredo Mayoral, Jean-Luc Peiry, Jean‑françois Berger, François-Xavier Simon, Franck Vautier, et al.. Origin and Holocene geomorphological evolution of the landslide-dammed basin of la Narse de la Sauvetat (Massif Central, France). Geomorphology, Elsevier, 2018, 320, pp.162-178. ⟨10.1016/j.geomorph.2018.08.015⟩. ⟨hal-01863784⟩

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