Bedrock fracture influences on geomorphic process and form across process domains and scales

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Abstract

Fractures are discontinuities in rock that can be exploited by erosion. Fractures regulate cohesion, profoundly affecting the rate, style, and location of Earth surface processes. By modulating the spatial distribution of erodibility, fractures can focus erosion and set the shape of features from scales of fluvial bedforms to entire landscapes. Although early investigation focused on fractures as features that influence the orientation and location of landforms, recent work has started to discern the mechanisms by which fractures influence the erodibility of bedrock. As numerical modeling and field measurement techniques improve, it is rapidly becoming feasible to determine how fractures influence geomorphic processes, as opposed to when or where. However, progress is hampered by a lack of research coordination across scales and process domains. We review studies from hillslope, glacial, fluvial, and coastal domains from the scale of reaches and outcrops to entire landscapes. We then synthesize this work to highlight similarities across domains and scales and suggest knowledge gaps, opportunities, and methodological challenges that need to be solved. By integrating knowledge across domains and scales, we present a more holistic conceptualization of fracture influences on geomorphic processes. This conceptualization enables a more unified framework for future investigation into fracture influences on Earth surface dynamics. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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