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Manoj Joseph Mathew (PhD)

Manoj Joseph Mathew


Thesis defended on July 05th 2016
in Lorient

Geomorphology and Morphotectonic Analysis of north Borneo


Geomorphic assessment of a region is considered to be crucial in understanding the present day landscapeand forces that have acted and is currently acting on the ever evolving topography. This thesis explores the geomorphology of the tropical landscape of Sarawak, north Borneo through morphotectonic analysis of two of the largest drainage basins of the entire Borneo Island: the Rajang and Baram basin; making this work the first systematic tectono-geomorphic evaluation of the region. The island of Borneo is enveloped by thick rainforests, hostile rugged mountainous terrain with deep and steep valleys, and is characterized by high denudation rates since Miocene. The studied drainage basins flow across entire central and north Sarawak and drain a total combined area of ca. 75, 000 km². The first contribution to the field is by conducting a study on the presence of active tectonic forces that modify the topography through rejuvenation of major and minor faults. The analysis using basin-scale hypsometry, asymmetry factor, normalized channel steepness index and spatial autocorrelation techniques showed that the landscape has been rejuvenated and experiences tectonic deformation to present-day in the form of active folding of the fold-thrust orogenic belts of the Interior Highlands which form the backbone of Borneo. From the results, we highlighted the presence of relict surfaces of landscapes which were isolated at high elevations unable to balance a rapid uplift phase experienced after 5 Ma. We extended the study in order to identify the current stage of landscape development by conducting stream profile analysis which displayed an array of knick-zones and knick points devoid of lithological and climatic controls. Deep V-shaped valleys formed in the zones that demonstrated active folding of the highlands also revealed relief anomalies highlighted through topographic analysis. We showed that enhanced orographic precipitation following the rapid creation of relief has supported adjustment of the topography to a state of transience. In the next part of this work, we conducted swath profile analysis, minimum bulk erosion and channel steepness anomaly maps in order to identify the role of rapid incision in exacerbating erosion rates as a response to tectonic and climatic forcing. We show that there exists a coupling between incision rates, precipitation and channel steepness which shows a relation of direct proportionality. Extensive geomorphic and sedimentological field campaigns were carried out in order to substantiate our results and conclusions. The field work revealed the presence of uplifted fluvial terraces, waterfalls and cataracts corresponding to knick-points identified by us. Finally, we combine our results from the geomorphic analysis and stratigraphic field work in order to construct a conceptual model showing the geomorphic evolution of Sarawak, north Borneo.

David Menier

Members of the jury
Manuel Pubellier
Bernard Delcaillau

Christine Authemayou

Bernard Delcaillau
Stéphane Bonnet

Sarawak (Malaysia)