IGCP 575: Pennsylvanian terrestrial habitats and biotas of Southeastern Euramerica

International Geological Correlation Programme 575:

Pennsylvanian terrestrial habitats and biotas in southeastern Euramerica and northern Asia Minor and their relation to tectonics and climate

2010 - 2015

The area known as Variscan Euramerica (the foreland and intramontane basins associated with the Variscan Mountains) supported extensive tropical forests during Middle Pennsylvanian times. These forests resulted in important coal deposits and consequently are often known informally as the Coal Forests. The burial of large quantities of carbon clearly meant that the Coal Forests were a major carbon sink at this time. It is probably not a coincidence, therefore, that when the area of the Coal Forests contracted dramatically towards the end of Middle Pennsylvanian times, there was marked increase in global temperatures, including a contraction of the southern polar ice-cap in Gondwana.

The changes that took place at this time in the terrestrial habitats of western Variscan Euramerica are relatively well-understood, especially after the recently-completed IGCP 469. For a combination of historical reasons and tectonic complications, however, the terrestrial environments in eastern Variscan Euramerica are less well-understood. The IGCP 575 project therefore looks at the evidence in an area stretching from the eastern and southern Alps, through the Balkans and the Black Sea Region (including northern Anatolia and the Donets) to the Caucasus. This represented the eastern part of the Variscan Foreland, together with a number of intramontane basins, and then extending towards the northern coast of the Palaeotethys Ocean.

IGCP 469 showed the value of plant biodiversity and biogeographical studies for determining patterns of environmental change, and so emphasis is given in the new project to an investigation of the macrofloral and palynological records. Terrestrial faunas were at this time still of relatively low diversity, but IGCP 469 showed that the fossil insect record also provides valuable insights into environmental changes. Where possible, we will also aim to draw in evidence from other animal groups, notably spiders and fishes. The sedimentology will focus on determining broad patterns of sedimentation and sediment-provenance, to determine basin morphology and the physical environment that was supporting the biotas. Where possible, this will be correlated with the IUGS Global Chronostratigraphical Scheme by linking the observed patterns with the marine bands and faunas found in some of the basins being considered.

The project helps us to gain a better understanding of a critical time in the geological evolution of Europe. It also throws light on the interaction between terrestrial biotas and global effects in Late Palaeozoic times, with implications for modelling today’s climate. It helps encourage interest in Pennsylvanian geology and palaeontology in areas where these subjects have (at least in recent years) tended to be neglected. It also improves our understanding of the distribution of Upper Carboniferous coal deposits in the area studied, with possible economic benefits for the countries involved. Finally, the project looks at the potential for developing geoconservation projects in the study areas, in collaboration with the European Association for the Conservation of Earth Heritage (ProGeo), which is particularly active in this region.

Regular updates of the IGCP 575 website

Zonguldak meeting (28-30 September 2010)

Zagreb meeting (6-8 September 2011)

Lugansk meeting (17-20 September 2012)

Udine meeting (3-6 September 2013)

Bucharest meeting (2-6 June 2014)

Page updated on 5 March 2014