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Late Moscovian terrestrial biotas and palaeoenvironments of Variscan Euramerica

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 March 2014

C.J. Cleal*
Affiliation:
Department of Biodiversity & Systematic Biology, National Museum Wales, Cardiff CF10 3NP, UK
S. Opluštil
Affiliation:
Faculty of Sciences, Charles University in Prague, Albertov 6, 128 43 Praha 2, Czech Republic
B.A. Thomas
Affiliation:
Institute of Biological, Ecological and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth SY23 3AL, UK
Y. Tenchov
Affiliation:
Geological Institute, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, G. Bonchev Street Block 24, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria
O.A. Abbink
Affiliation:
TNO, P.O. Box 80015, 3508 TA Utrecht, the Netherlands
J. Bek
Affiliation:
Department of Palaeobiology & Palaeoecology, Institute of Geology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Rozvojová 269, 165 00 Praha 6, Czech Republic
T. Dimitrova
Affiliation:
Geological Institute, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, G. Bonchev Street Block 24, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria
J. Drábková
Affiliation:
Czech Geological Survey, Klárov 131/3, 118 21 Praha 1, Czech Republic
Ch. Hartkopf-Fröder
Affiliation:
Geologischer Diest NRW, De-Greiff Straße 195, D-47803 Krefeld, Germany
T. van Hoof
Affiliation:
TNO, P.O. Box 80015, 3508 TA Utrecht, the Netherlands
A. Kędzior
Affiliation:
Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków Research Centre, Senacka1, 31-002 Kraków, Poland
E. Jarzembowski
Affiliation:
Maidstone Museum, St Faith's Street, Maidstone ME14 1LH, UK
K. Jasper
Affiliation:
Geologischer Diest NRW, De-Greiff Straße 195, D-47803 Krefeld, Germany
M. Libertin
Affiliation:
National Museum, Václavské nám stí 68, 115 79 Praha 1, Czech Republic
D. McLean
Affiliation:
MB Stratigraphy Ltd, 11 Clement Street, Sheffield S9 5EA, UK
M. Oliwkiewicz-Miklasinska
Affiliation:
Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków Research Centre, Senacka1, 31-002 Kraków, Poland
J. Pšenička
Affiliation:
Palaeontology Department, West Bohemian Museum in Plzeň, Kopeckého sady 2, 301 36 Plzeň, Czech Republic
B. Ptak
Affiliation:
Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Upper Silesian Branch, Sosnowiec, Poland
J.W. Schneider
Affiliation:
Department of Palaeontology, Geological Institute, Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, Bernard-von-Cotta Straße 2, 09599 Freiberg, Germany
S. Schultka
Affiliation:
Forschungsinstitut Museum für Naturkunde, Invalidenstraße 43, D-10115 Berlin, Germany
Z. Šimůnek
Affiliation:
Czech Geological Survey, Klárov 131/3, 118 21 Praha 1, Czech Republic
D. Uhl
Affiliation:
Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
M.I. Waksmundzka
Affiliation:
Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
I. van Waveren
Affiliation:
Naturalis, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands
E. L. Zodrow
Affiliation:
Palaeobotanical Laboratory, Cape Breton University, Sydney NS, Canada B1P 6L2
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Abstract

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A synthesis of the upper Moscovian sedimentological and palaeontological record of terrestrial habitats across the Variscan foreland and adjacent intramontane basins (an area which is referred to here as Variscan Euramerica) suggests a contraction and progressive westward shift of the coal swamps. These changes can be correlated with pulses of tectonic activity (tectonic phases) resulting from the northwards migration of the Variscan Front. This tectonic activity caused disruption to the landscapes and drainage patterns where the coal swamps were growing, which became less suitable to growth of the dominant plants of the swamps, the arborescent lycopsids. They were progressively replaced by vegetation dominated by marattialean ferns, which through a combination of slower growth and larger canopies resulted in less evapo-transpiration. This in turn caused localised reductions in rainfall, which further affected the ability of the lycopsids to dominate the swamp vegetation. These changes were initially localised and where the coal swamps were able to survive the lycopsids and pteridosperms show little change in either species diversity or biogeography, indicating that at this time there was minimal regional-scale climate change taking place. By Asturian times, however, the process had accelerated and the swamps in Variscan Euramerica became progressively replaced by predominantly conifer and cordaite vegetation that favoured much drier substrates. Except in localised pockets in intramontane basins of the Variscan Mountains, the last development of coal swamps in Variscan Euramerica was of early Cantabrian age. Further west, lycopsid-dominated coal swamps persisted for a little longer. The last remnants of the lycopsid-dominated coal swamps in the Illinois Basin disappeared probably by middle-late Cantabrian times, as the cycle of contracting wetlands and regional reductions in rainfall generated its own momentum, and no longer needed the impetus of tectonic instability. This tectonically-driven decline in the Euramerican coal swamps was probably responsible for an annual increase in atmospheric CO2 of c. 0.37 ppm, and may have been implicated in the marked increase in global temperatures near the Moscovian – Kasimovian boundary, and the onset of the Late Pennsylvanian interglacial.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Stichting Netherlands Journal of Geosciences 2009

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