Formation of gravel pavements during fluvial erosion as an explanation for persistence of ancient cratered terrain on Titan and Mars
Howard et al
In many terrestrial channels the gravel bed is only transported during rare floods (threshold channels), and rates of erosion are very slow. In this paper we explore how coarse debris delivered to channels on Mars and Titan from erosion may inhibit further erosion once a coarse gravel channel bed develops. Portions of the equatorial region of Titan are fluvially eroded into banded (crenulated) terrain, some of which contains numerous circular structures that are likely highly degraded large impact craters surviving from the late heavy bombardment. No mechanism that can chemically or physically break down ice (likely the most important component of Titans crust) has been unambiguously identified. This paper examines a scenario in which fluvial erosion on Titan has largely involved erosion into an impact-generated megaregolith that contains a modest component of gravel-sized debris. As the megaregolith is eroded, coarse gravel gradually accumulates as a lag pavement on channel beds, limiting further erosion and creating a dissected, but largely inactive, or senescent, landscape. Similar development of gravel pavements occur in ancient mountain belts on Earth, and partially explain the persistence of appreciable relief after hundreds of millions of years. Likewise, coarse gravel beds may have limited the degree to which erosion could modify the heavily cratered terrains on Mars, particularly if weathering were largely due to physical, rather than chemical weathering processes in a relatively cold and/or arid environment.