Holocene floodplain aggradation in the central Grampian Highlands, Scotland

Colin Ballantyne*, Melanie S. E. Robertson-Rintoul

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radiocarbon ages for samples of organic material within and overlying the highest Holocene floodplain and fan terraces in Glen Feshie and Glen Tromie imply sediment aggradation after ∼4.3 cal ka and probably incision after ∼3.7 cal ka, and in the Edendon Valley aggradation after ∼2.8 cal ka, with incision after ∼2.7 cal ka. The timing of sediment aggradation at all three sites postdates the onset of pine forest decline (∼4.8 cal ka) at nearby high-level sites, and coincides with wet periods characterised by high water tables. This coincidence in timing suggests that forest decline may have caused upstream extension of the tributary network, headwater incision and flashier flood responses, and that increased rainfall enhanced sediment discharge from headwater tributaries, with consequent sediment accumulation downstream on low-gradient fans and floodplains. More speculatively, exhaustion of readily entrained sediment from headwater areas may have stimulated subsequent floodplain and fan incision. Our results show that the highest Holocene terrace (the Main Holocene Terrace) is a diachronous feature, even in valleys emanating from the same upland source area, and support the conclusions of simulation models that predict marked increases in sediment discharge when deforestation is succeeded by an episode of increased rainfall.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalScottish Geographical Journal
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date5 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Feb 2024


  • Fan terraces
  • Floodplain terraces
  • Forest decline
  • Holocene
  • Radiocarbon dating


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