EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Cenozoic uplift history and topographic rejuvenation of the northern Atlas-Meseta system (Morocco)

Romano Clementucci1,2, Paolo Ballato1, Lionel Siame2, Faccenna Claudio1,3, Racano Simone4, Torreti Giacomo1, Lanari Riccardo5, Leanni Laetitia2, and Valery Guillou
Romano Clementucci et al.
  • 1Università degli studi Roma Tre, Scienze, Italy (
  • 2Aix-Marseille Univ., CEREGE, Aix-en Provence, France
  • 3GFZ-German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
  • 4Institute for Geosciences, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
  • 5Università di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze, Italy

Transient topography represents an opportunity for extracting information on the combined effect of tectonics, mantle-driven processes, lithology and climate across different temporal and spatial scales. The geomorphic signature of transient conditions can be used to unravel the landscape evolution and to assess perturbations in uplift rates, especially in areas devoid of stratigraphic constraints. The Atlas-Meseta system experienced a large scale topographic rejuvenation during the Cenozoic through a combination of different processes. Despite the uplift, the Western Moroccan Meseta (WMM) represents a quiescent tectonic domain with deeply incised valleys and high-standing erosional surfaces (relict landscape). This topography is characterized by elevated non-lithological knickpoints, that delimit an uplifted relict landscape, implying a transient response to a change in uplift rates. Here, we determine denudation rates of selected watersheds and bedrock outcrops from cosmogenic nuclides and perform stream profile, regional and basin-scale geomorphic analysis. Denudation rates of the relict and the rejuvenated landscape range from 15 to 20 m/Myr and from 30 to 40 m/Myr, respectively. These results allow estimating the erodibility parameter for performing river-profile inversions and hence extracting rock uplift rates through time. Inverted rock uplift rates are 10-25 m/Myr from 45 to 22 Ma and 30-55 m/Myr from 22 to 10 Ma. Despite the different time scales, the inverted rates are consistent with 10Be averaged denudation rates (15-20 and 30-40 m/Myr) and river incision values from Pleistocene lava flows (<10 and ~50 m/Myr) for the rejuvenated and relict regions of the WMM. These results agree with geological data and indicate that the observed 400 m of surface uplift in the WMM started to develop at ~22-20 Ma. Given the wavelength of the topographic swell forming the topography of the WMM, uplift is here interpreted to reflect localized crustal thickening through magma addition or lithospheric thinning through mantle delamination. This event, however, represents only a first episode of uplift. The occurrence of ~7-Myr-old marine sediments at ~1200 m of elevation indicates that the adjacent Folded Middle Atlas experienced a more recent surface uplift at ~170 m/Myr. Considering the cumulative amount of surface uplift that varies eastward from 400 to 800 and 1200 m from the Meseta to the Tabular and the Folded Middle Atlas, as well as the spatio-temporal pattern of alkaline volcanism (middle Miocene and Pliocene to Present), we suggest that the most recent episode (second phase) of surface uplift was induced by a larger-scale process that most likely included upwelling of asthenospheric mantle and to a lesser extent crustal shortening and thickening in the Folded Middle Atlas.

How to cite: Clementucci, R., Ballato, P., Siame, L., Claudio, F., Simone, R., Giacomo, T., Riccardo, L., Laetitia, L., and Guillou, V.: Cenozoic uplift history and topographic rejuvenation of the northern Atlas-Meseta system (Morocco), EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11243,, 2023.