Non-synchronous response of adjacent floodplain systems to Holocene environmental change

Mark P. Taylor*, John Lewin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Two adjacent upland floodplains are compared to establish the local response of floodplains to environmental change. Radiocarbon dating, the analysis of sedimentary exposures, terrace mapping, aerial photography and archaeological evidence are used to examine Late Quaternary valley fill sediments on the Afon Tanat and the Afon Vyrnwy in the Upper Severn Basin, Wales, UK. The alluvial stratigraphy of the two floodplain systems consists of Late Devensian (last glacial) fluvio-glacial sediments at the valley margins deposited under a braided outwash river regime. Holocene age terraces, with floodplain and palaeochannel deposits composed of gravels overlain by silty-sands, are inset into this older unit and were formed by meandering fluvial channel systems. A combination of field and laboratory data demonstrates that from the mid-late Holocene the two floodplain systems had divergent development. The Afon Vyrnwy has remained vertically stable for the last ca. 4000 yrs. whereas the adjacent Afon Tanat continued to be vertically and laterally active. Both floodplain systems have been affected by Late Quaternary climatic fluctuations and anthropogenic activity from the Bronze Age to the Roman period, but local geomorphic gradient controls, combined with a possibly greater focus of anthropogenic activity in the Tanat catchment, may explain the differential evolution of the two systems. The data demonstrate that multiple reach-scale studies are essential for revealing significant stages in the chronology and historical development of fluvial systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-264
Number of pages14
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Alluviation
  • Floodplain
  • Holocene
  • Palaeochannel


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