Relative timing of uplift along the Zagros Mountain Front Flexure (Kurdistan Region of Iraq): Constrained by geomorphic indices and landscape evolution modeling
The Mountain Front Flexure marks a dominant topographic step in the frontal part of the Zagros Fold–Thrust Belt. It is characterized by numerous active anticlines atop of a basement fault. So far, little is known about the relative activity of the anticlines, about their evolution, or about how crustal deformation migrates over time. We assessed the relative landscape maturity of three along-strike anticlines (from SE to NW: Harir, Perat, and Akre) located on the hanging wall of the Mountain Front Flexure in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to identify the most active structures and to gain insights into the evolution of the fold–thrust belt. Landscape maturity was evaluated using geomorphic indices such as hypsometric curves, hypsometric integral, surface roughness, and surface index. Subsequently, numerical landscape evolution models were run to estimate the relative time difference between the onset of growth of the anticlines, using the present-day topography of the Harir Anticline as a base model. A stream power equation was used to introduce fluvial erosion, and a hillslope diffusion equation was applied to account for colluvial sediment transport. For different time steps of model evolution, we calculated the geomorphic indices generated from the base model. While Akre Anticline shows deeply incised valleys and advanced erosion, Harir and Perat anticlines have relatively smoother surfaces and are supposedly younger than the Akre Anticline. The landscape maturity level decreases from NW to SE. A comparison of the geomorphic indices of the model output to those of the present-day topography of Perat and Akre anticlines revealed that it would take the Harir Anticline about 80–100 and 160–200 kyr to reach the maturity level of the Perat and Akre anticlines, respectively, assuming erosion under constant conditions and constant rock uplift rates along the three anticlines. Since the factors controlling geomorphology (lithology, structural setting, and climate) are similar for all three anticlines, and under the assumption of constant growth and erosion conditions, we infer that uplift of the Akre Anticline started 160–200 kyr before that of the Harir Anticline, with the Perat Anticline showing an intermediate age. A NW-ward propagation of the Harir Anticline itself implies that the uplift has been independent within different segments. Our method of estimating the relative age difference can be applied to many other anticlines in the Mountain Front Flexure region to construct a model of temporal evolution of this belt.