Rectangular drainage pattern evolution controlled by pipe cave collapse along clastic dikes, the Dead Sea Basin, Israel

Matanya Hamawi, Liran Goren, Amit Mushkin, Tsafrir Levi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rectangular drainage networks are characterized by right-angle bends and confluences. The formation of such drainage patterns is commonly associated with orthogonal sets of fractures, making them an outstanding example for structurally controlled landscape evolution. However, this association remains largely circumstantial because little is known about how rectangular drainages mechanistically link to orthogonal fractures. We investigated these linkages in the hyper-arid Ami'az Plain located within the Dead Sea Basin in Israel. The Ami'az Plain is penetrated by hundreds of sub-vertical clastic dikes (mode-I fractures infilled with sediments) and is also incised by a rectangular canyon system. Numerous caves extend from the banks and heads of the canyon system. Based on field surveys and analysis of high-resolution airborne LiDAR data, we mapped the Ami'az Plain drainage network and its associated landforms, including sinkholes. Our analysis revealed that the subaerial tributaries of the canyon system and the strike of the clastic dikes show similar orientations. In addition, subsurface mapping with a ground-based scanning LiDAR, together with field experiments, demonstrated that the caves and sinkholes in the Ami'az Plain are spatially associated with clastic dikes and that the caves formed through piping erosion along dikes. Based on these findings, we suggest that clastic dikes act as efficient infiltration pathways to the subsurface, where flow along clastic dikes induces internal erosion that forms pipe caves. The sinkholes form by collapses of cave roofs. Coalescence of sinkholes and seepage erosion where dikes intersect canyon heads generate new tributaries and act to extend existing ones. Fluvial erosion and subsequent bank collapse modify the canyon network. Our findings emphasize the critical role of subsurface erosion, caves and sinkholes in linking fractures to drainage pattern evolution, and provide a new process-based framework to interpret rectangular drainage networks on Earth and possibly other planetary surfaces.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)936-954
Number of pages19
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number4
StatePublished - 30 Mar 2022


  • Dead Sea
  • clastic dikes
  • drainage pattern
  • hyper-arid
  • internal erosion
  • piping caves
  • piping erosion
  • rectangular pattern
  • seepage erosion
  • sinkholes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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