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Holocene eolian activation as a proxy for broad-scale landscape change on the Gila River Indian Community, Arizona

Wright, David K., Forman, Steven L., Waters, Michael R., Ravesloot, John C.
Quaternary research 2011 v.76 no.1 pp. 10-21
Entisols, catalysts, climate, data collection, dunes, landscapes, loess, luminescence, paleoclimatology, periodicity, quartz, rivers, watersheds, Arizona
Eolian sediments are common within the middle Gila River Valley, southern Arizona, and reflect variability in eolian and fluvial processes during the late Holocene. This study focuses on deciphering the stratigraphic record of eolian deposition and associated luminescence dating of quartz extracts by single aliquot regeneration (SAR) protocols. Stratigraphic assessment coupled with luminescence ages indicates that there are four broad eolian depositional events at ca. 3145±220yr, 1950–1360yr, 800±100yr, and 690–315yr. This nascent chronology, correlated with regional archeological evidence and paleoclimate proxy datasets, leads to two general conclusions: (1) loess deposits, transverse-dune formation and sand-sheet deposition in the late Holocene are probably linked to flow variability of the Gila River, though the last two events are concordant with regional megadroughts; and (2) the stability of eolian landforms since the 19th century reflects the lack of eolian sediment supply during a period of fluvial incision, resulting in Entisol formation on dunes. The prime catalyst of eolian activity during the late Holocene is inferred to be sediment supply, driven by climate periodicity and variable flow within the Gila River catchment.