Neotectonic control on river sinuosity at the western margin of the Little Hungarian Plain

A. Zámolyi, B. Székely, E. Draganits, G. Timár

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40 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the influence of neotectonic activity on river channel patterns in low-relief areas. Our study area, the westernmost part of the Little Hungarian Plain, belongs to the Danube catchment in the transition zone between the Eastern Alps and Western Carpathians. This area evolved within the Pannonian back-arc basin during the Neogene and was also affected by the major lateral tectonic extrusion of the Eastern Alps.Water course analysis has been carried out on the Leitha, Répce, Rábca, Ikva and Wulka rivers, to detect a possible relationship between their river courses and any on-going tectonic activity that is otherwise difficult to detect in this poorly exposed low-relief area. In order to derive channel geometries hardly modified by human activity (i.e. prior to the major river control works of the last 150. years), calculations of river channel properties were based on georeferenced historical map sheets of the Second Military Survey of the Habsburg Empire. These recorded the channel patterns and geomorphologic situation around 1840.Classic sinuosity values from the reconstructed river courses have been derived using several window sizes. The calculated values show surprisingly strong local variations, considering the low-relief and lithological homogeneity of the area. The spatial distribution of the pronounced sinuosity variations coincides with the location of Late Miocene faults well-known from seismic data. On-going active tectonic activity along these faults is further indicated by the local earthquake record and geomorphic parameters derived from high-resolution digital elevation models. In conclusion, river sinuosity calculations represent a sensitive tool for recognizing neotectonic activity in low-relief areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-243
Number of pages13
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2010



  • Alpine-Carpathian-Pannonian Junction
  • Little Hungarian Plain
  • Neotectonics
  • River sinuosity
  • Second Military Survey
  • Vienna Basin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes

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