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European rivers evolution project (EREP)

Protocol for mapping fluvial courses

The purpose of this project is therefore to produce a series of maps to illustrate the changing courses of the major fluvial systems in Europe during the Pleistocene.  Examples of maps produced for an earlier exercise are available at:

The following points were agreed at the Krakow meeting on 16-17 April 2004 and in subsequent discussions by Leszek Marks (Poland), Andrey Matoshko (Ukraine), Irina Pavlovskaya (Belarus) and Phil Gibbard (England), Jürgen Ehlers (Germany) and Jaroslav Tyracek (Czechia).

Krakow castle and the River Vistula


The area selected will be that bordered by 44°N to 60°N latitude and 12°W to 44°E longitude.  This area was selected to include the Danube and the southern Baltic region.  The area extends as far east as the Don/Volga rivers on the Russian Plain.


The following time-slices have been selected because they represent critical and easily-identified phases that can be generally recognised across the whole continent.  Not all river-courses will be known from every phase.

1. Late Weichselian - Pomeranian Phase or equivalent (c. 15 ky or cal. 16-17 ky) - sea-level* ~ -100 m?.
2. Late Weichselian - Brandenburg Phase or equivalent (c. 20 ky or cal. 22ky) - sea-level* ~ -120 m?.
3. Eemian - high global sea-level substage (c. Quercus/Corylus zone or equivalent).
4. Saalian - Warthe Substage or equivalent.
5. Saalian - Drenthe Substage or equivalent.
6. Holsteinian - high global sea-level phase.
7. Late Elsterian - ice-recession phase.
8. Elsterian - maximum glaciation.
9. Cromerian - low sea-level stand (possibly also high sea-level phase)*. Precise timing to be agreed.
10. Donian - glaciation maximum.
11. Plio/Pleistocene boundary  c. 2.6 my.

* for these phases we will need to agree on the contemporary eustatic sea-level to be used.

Regarding Weichselian LGM, Late Glacial and Holocene courses, Kim Cohen would be very interested to get into contact with you - a description of his project, and contact can be found *here* .


We would like to include the following information on the maps:
1. River courses etc., 3 orders of rivers will be shown.  The rivers should be shown as a continuous line where their course is known and as a dotted line where it is interpreted.
2. Ice-dammed lakes
3. Glacier-induced drainage diversions
4. Locations of key sections through which the glacial limits are defined and dated.
5. Major watersheds should be included.
6. The coastlines of the sea and large lakes (including ice-dammed lakes) where known should be indicated as a continuous line where their course is known and as a dotted line where it is interpreted.  Where it is known, the surface elevation of the water surface (related to present sea-level) should be included.

We will use the following signs and symbols:
1. River courses will represent time-slices not individual dates like those of the glacial-limit maps.
2. The 'glacial limits' will be shown as lines, continuous lines for established glacial limits boundaries and stippled lines for interpreted boundaries.
3. The ice-dammed lakes will be shown as blue hatched areas.
4. Glacier-induced drainage diversions will be shown as thick blue lines.
5. Key sections will be shown as different symbols.

Base maps

The maps will be uniformly plotted onto the Digital Chart of the World at a scale of 1:1,000,000 by J. Ehlers [] , to ensure compatibility with other global mapping projects, in particular the recently-completed INQUA Extent & Chronology of Glaciation project. These maps can be annotated and modified using ArcView, a Geographical Information System (GIS) software package.  The map consists of several 'layers'.  It includes modern rivers, lakes, glaciers, settlements, contours (in feet), roads and railway lines.

There are three ways to submit the information for the map system:
1. You send us topographic maps showing the glacial limits and other features mentioned above, and we digitise them.  Make sure that details about the co-ordinate system and map projection are included.
2. We send you a printout of the 1:1,000,000 map of your area, and you draw on these.
3. You have access to ArcInfo or ArcView and provide the data in digitised form so that we can incorporate them directly into our system.

We will digitise the maps, if necessary, and come back to you with open questions, such as, for instance, mismatch at national boundaries.


Accompanying description

It is intended that each map will be accompanied by a description that will present the essential details of the sequence, including the chronological basis, the completeness of the evidence, the nature of the materials, the tectonic and climatic background etc.  Rather than these descriptions being based on national areas, they will, as far as possible, be based on drainage basins, i.e. authors will be expected to co-operate as necessary on the production of descriptive information.  Examples will include; the Don, Dnieper, Danube, Rhine, Elbe etc.

The text contributions should include the following topics:
1. A brief review of the Quaternary history of the drainage basin.
2. Discussion of the courses marked on the maps (quality of data, alternative interpretations).  For each river course, it is most important to specify when a course was occupied and when it was abandoned.  For parts of river courses passing through gorges, this course may have remained the same throughout the last 3 my, whereas in low-lying areas upstream or downstream of a gorge several courses may have existed through time.
3. Discussion of the dating of the deposits.
4. Open questions.
As in a normal scientific article, figures and tables can be used to illustrate the text.  All necessary references, including the sources for the map(s), should follow the style used by 'Quaternary Science Reviews '.

It is intended to produce a monograph book from these results, probably with a CD-Rom in the back, to present the entire results in one volume.  This volume will include Introductory and summary sections, together with the descriptive chapters for each drainage basin.

We will investigate the potential for publishing this volume with commercial publishers.


Following the initial meeting in Krakow, it is intended to hold annual meetings in 2005 and 2006 to monitor progress, to present results and to ensure compatability of the final products.  The completion of the project by 2007 will allow us to propose a special session at the Cairns INQUA Congress where we will be able to present our results.

All the contributions will need to be checked and the English has to be corrected (which will take some time). Please, assist our work by sending your material as early as possible.  The text should be preferably submitted on disc in Word PC-readable format (Mac users please submit Word files). If there are any questions or problems, please ask us and we will try to help.

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