Mire Development and Disappearance due to River Capture as Hydrogeological and Geomorphological Consequences of LGM Ice-Marginal Valley Evolution at the Vistula-Neman Watershed

Grzegorz Wierzbicki , Mateusz Grygoruk , Maria Grodzka-Łukaszewska , Piotr Bartold , Tomasz Okruszko

The advances and retreats of ice sheets during Pleistocene significantly changed high- and mid-latitude landscapes and hydrological systems, albeit differently, in North America and Europe. On the southern margin of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the Baltic Sea basin, a specific type of valley has developed between glacial margins and upland or mountain slopes. We studied new geological data (boreholes, electrical resistivity imaging (ERI) from this geomorphic setting in Northeast Poland to understand: (1) how the landscape and river network evolved to eventually produce peat mires during the Holocene, and (2) the nature of groundwater recharge to fens in the upper Biebrza Valley. We present the results on a geological cross-section with hydrogeological interpretation. We also discuss regional geomorphology. In addition, we present the LGM extent derived from a spatial distribution of Vistulian (Weichselian) terminal moraines. These end moraines are also interpreted as Saalian kames. Thus, we additionally present another method of LGM extent delineation from a physicogeographical division. We link the steep slopes of the studied valley walls (kame terrace fronts) with thermokarst erosion in the periglacial zone. We then document the hydrogeological window (DISCONTINUITY in the till layer over the confined aquifer), which enables the outflow of groundwater into the peat bog. Although minerotrophic fen mire development in the study area is likely to be sustained in the near future through sufficient groundwater supply, the projected capture of the Biebrza River by the Neman River will not allow for sustaining peatland development.

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