The convexity of carbonate hilltops: 36Cl constraints on denudation and chemical weathering rates and implications for hillslope curvature

Matan Ben-Asher*, Itai Haviv, Onn Crouvi, Joshua J. Roering, Ari Matmon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Carbonate hillslopes are often soil mantled and display a classic convex morphology. In this study we examine controls on carbonate hillslope denudation and morphology using a modified regolith mass balance equation to account for chemical weathering and dust input—two fluxes that are commonly neglected in settings with silicate-dominated bedrock. We utilize seven study sites in the Eastern Mediterranean across a significant gradient in the mean annual rainfall and dust deposition flux. Combining cosmogenic 36Cl-derived hilltop denudation rates with an estimate of the regolith chemical depletion and the quantified fraction of dust in the regolith we predict hilltop curvature and compare our predictions with observations based on high-resolution airborne LiDAR (light detection and ranging). Denudation rates vary from 5 to 210 mm/k.y. and increase with mean annual rainfall. Less resistant carbonates (chalk) experience faster denudation rates relative to more resistant dolo-limestone and are less prone to chemical weathering. Soil production exhibits a humped dependency on soil thickness. The observed hilltop curvature varies as a function of rainfall and dust flux with a minimum at sub-humid sites. While trends in hilltop convexity are often solely attributed to variations in erosion rate, our results illustrate the additional effects of dust production and chemical depletion. Our mass balance model implies that drier sites in the south probably experienced a more intricate history of regolith production due to dust flux fluctuations. Thus, by incorporating dust flux and chemical weathering to the classic hillslope evolution model we are able to identify a complex relation between hilltop curvature, soil production, and climate.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1930-1946
Number of pages17
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank the associate editor S. Marrero, the editor B.S. Singer and the reviewers for their valuable inputs. This research was supported by the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation grant 2016417.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. Geological Society of America.


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