Paraglacial evolution of the Irish landscape

Jasper Knight, Stephan Harrison


Paraglacial processes represent the dominant mechanism of geomorphic change in deglaciating landscapes worldwide and are now being increasingly recognised as controls on deglacial and postglacial landscape dynamics. This reflects the influence of glacigenic lithospheric loading/unloading cycles and patterns of glacigenic erosion and deposition. Ireland is an important location for studying the impacts of paraglacial processes in the landscape, as it was strongly imprinted by the erosional and depositional imprints of late Pleistocene glaciations and was affected by rapid shifts in North Atlantic climate. Using examples from mountains, rivers and coasts from across Ireland, this study examines some of the varied landscape responses to paraglacial relaxation in these different settings. The purpose behind this study is to show how the styles of paraglacial response may vary over time and space, even within a single regional landscape, and this can help assess the sensitivity of different environments affected by paraglacial relaxation. This study proposes an evolutionary model that describes the paraglacial sediment cascade that has shaped the Irish landscape during the lateglacial and Holocene. Consideration of paraglacial processes can yield a better understanding of the postglacial evolution of mountain, river and coastal landscapes in Ireland.

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