Quantifying sand provenance and erosion (Marsyandi River, Nepal Himalaya)

Eduardo Garzanti, Giovanni Vezzoli, Sergio Andò, Jérôme Lavé, Mikaël Attal, Christian France-Lanord, Peter DeCelles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


We use petrographic and mineralogical data on modern sediments to investigate erosion patterns in the Marsyandi basin of the central Himalaya, a privileged natural laboratory in which a series of multidisciplinary geomorphological, sedimentological, geochemical and geochronological studies have been recently carried out to unravel the interrelationships between tectonic, climatic and sedimentary processes in high-relief orogenic belts. Although relative erosion patterns are effectively constrained by analyses of replicate samples along six successive tracts of the Marsyandi River, uncertainties are caused by potential compositional variation between the monsoon and post-monsoon season. Estimates of erosion rates are significantly affected by poor knowledge of total sediment flux through the basin. Our results support focused erosion of the southern, tectonically-lower part of the Greater Himalaya in the hangingwall of the MCT Zone, where the summer monsoon reaches its peak intensity (up to 5 m/a), and sediment yields and erosion rates reach 14,100 ± 3400 t/km2 and 5.1 ± 1.2 mm/a. Erosion rates sharply decrease southward in low-relief Lesser Himalayan units (1.6 ± 0.6 mm/a), and also progressively decrease northwards in the high-altitude, tectonically-upper part of the Greater Himalaya, where rainfall decreases rapidly to < 2 m/a. Even areas of extreme topography such as the Manaslu Granite are characterized by relatively low erosion rates (2.4 ±0.9 mm/a), because precipitations become too scarce to feed significant ice flux and glacial activity. Monsoonal rainfall decreases further to < 0.5 m/a in the Tethys Himalayan zone farther north, where erosion rates are ∼ 1 mm/a. Coupling between erosion and peak monsoonal rainfall along the southern front of the Greater Himalaya is consistent with both channel-flow models of tectonic extrusion and tectonic uplift above a mid-crustal ramp. Altitude and relief are not the principal factors controlling erosion, and the central Nepal eight-thousanders may be viewed as topographic anomalies in cold desert climate at the southern edge of the Tibetan rain shadow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-515
Number of pages16
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 30 2007


  • Greater Himalaya
  • Lesser Himalaya
  • Tethys Himalaya
  • bulk petrography
  • collision orogens
  • erosion rates
  • modern sands
  • monsoon season
  • sediment budgets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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