Geological control of physiography in Southeast Queensland: A multi-scale analysis using GIS

Hodgkinson, Jane Helen (2009) Geological control of physiography in Southeast Queensland: A multi-scale analysis using GIS. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The study reported here, constitutes a full review of the major geological events that have influenced the morphological development of the southeast Queensland region. Most importantly, it provides evidence that the region’s physiography continues to be geologically ‘active’ and although earthquakes are presently few and of low magnitude, many past events and tectonic regimes continue to be strongly influential over drainage, morphology and topography. Southeast Queensland is typified by highland terrain of metasedimentary and igneous rocks that are parallel and close to younger, lowland coastal terrain. The region is currently situated in a passive margin tectonic setting that is now under compressive stress, although in the past, the region was subject to alternating extensional and compressive regimes. As part of the investigation, the effects of many past geological events upon landscape morphology have been assessed at multiple scales using features such as the location and orientation of drainage channels, topography, faults, fractures, scarps, cleavage, volcanic centres and deposits, and recent earthquake activity. A number of hypotheses for local geological evolution are proposed and discussed. This study has also utilised a geographic information system (GIS) approach that successfully amalgamates the various types and scales of datasets used. A new method of stream ordination has been developed and is used to compare the orientation of channels of similar orders with rock fabric, in a topologically controlled approach that other ordering systems are unable to achieve. Stream pattern analysis has been performed and the results provide evidence that many drainage systems in southeast Queensland are controlled by known geological structures and by past geological events. The results conclude that drainage at a fine scale is controlled by cleavage, joints and faults, and at a broader scale, large river valleys, such as those of the Brisbane River and North Pine River, closely follow the location of faults. These rivers appear to have become entrenched by differential weathering along these planes of weakness. Significantly, stream pattern analysis has also identified some ‘anomalous’ drainage that suggests the orientations of these watercourses are geologically controlled, but by unknown causes. To the north of Brisbane, a ‘coastal drainage divide’ has been recognized and is described here. The divide crosses several lithological units of different age, continues parallel to the coast and prevents drainage from the highlands flowing directly to the coast for its entire length. Diversion of low order streams away from the divide may be evidence that a more recent process may be the driving force. Although there is no conclusive evidence for this at present, it is postulated that the divide may have been generated by uplift or doming associated with mid-Cenozoic volcanism or a blind thrust at depth. Also north of Brisbane, on the D’Aguilar Range, an elevated valley (the ‘Kilcoy Gap’) has been identified that may have once drained towards the coast and now displays reversed drainage that may have resulted from uplift along the coastal drainage divide and of the D’Aguilar blocks. An assessment of the distribution and intensity of recent earthquakes in the region indicates that activity may be associated with ancient faults. However, recent movement on these faults during these events would have been unlikely, given that earthquakes in the region are characteristically of low magnitude. There is, however, evidence that compressive stress is building and being released periodically and ancient faults may be a likely place for this stress to be released. The relationship between ancient fault systems and the Tweed Shield Volcano has also been discussed and it is suggested here that the volcanic activity was associated with renewed faulting on the Great Moreton Fault System during the Cenozoic. The geomorphology and drainage patterns of southeast Queensland have been compared with expected morphological characteristics found at passive and other tectonic settings, both in Australia and globally. Of note are the comparisons with the East Brazilian Highlands, the Gulf of Mexico and the Blue Ridge Escarpment, for example. In conclusion, the results of the study clearly show that, although the region is described as a passive margin, its complex, past geological history and present compressive stress regime provide a more intricate and varied landscape than would be expected along typical passive continental margins. The literature review provides background to the subject and discusses previous work and methods, whilst the findings are presented in three peer-reviewed, published papers. The methods, hypotheses, suggestions and evidence are discussed at length in the final chapter.

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ID Code: 29968
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: McLoughlin, Stephen & Cox, Malcolm
Keywords: geomorphology, GIS, drainage patterns, stream-ordering, Southeast Queensland, passive margin, earthquake distribution
Divisions: Past > Schools > Biogeoscience
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 Jan 2010 05:11
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2015 05:25

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