Other researchers have published evidence of past diversions from the Rio Essequibo into the Amazon Basin. Stokes said the bigger a river grows, the more power it has to wrest further diversions of water from neighbors. As the volume of water in the Amazon rose, so did the river's erosive power. Erosion in the headwaters of the Amazon's tributaries captured more water from neighboring basins, which further swelled and empowered the Amazon in an ongoing cycle.
Stokes and her colleagues are interested in how river systems grow to become continent-spanning behemoths like the Amazon. Although scientists believe river capture is a normal process, they rarely see it in action. Most examples have been reconstructed from evidence left by events that happened in the past. The mainstem of the upper Orinoco forks into the Casiquiare on a broad flat floodplain, where the high ground separating it from the Rio Negro basin rises only 3 to 10 meters 10 to 33 feet above the river at low flow.
During annual floods, the river rises about 4 meters 13 feet. The authors believe seasonal flooding breached the divide and through erosion, the Casiquiare branch eventually became a perennial channel. The process of river capture may be slower in lowlands, like the region where the Casiquiare splits from the Orinoco, than in the mountains, because the low grade allows sediments carried by current to settle and counter losses to erosion, the study suggests.
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Eventually the Casiquiare will conduct the all of the flow from the 40,square-kilometer 25,square-mile drainage basin away from the upper Orinoco and into the Amazon, according to new research. Credit: Google Earth. A black line marks the present boundary between the Orinoco River basin to the north and the Amazon River Basin to the south.
A gray line shows where the new boundary will sit when the Rio Casiquiare completes the capture of the upper Orinoco. The cartoon to the right depicts the hypothesized capture process: I Pre-capture, II present bifurcation, and III future complete capture. Shading denotes the Amazon basin.
A map of the Amazon basin shows past and ongoing expansion of the basin through river capture. The bold black line traces the present boundary of the Amazon basin. The red line shows the future position of the boundary upon completion of the capture of the upper Rio Orinoco by the Rio Casiquiare.
The Orinoco Eco Camp
Gray lines show past positions of divides inferred from captures. The rivers plotted in orange are captured reaches; the rivers plotted in magenta are those that lost drainage area. More information: Maya F. Stokes et al. DOI: Provided by GeoSpace. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission.
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Orinoco Basin - Wikipedia
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