Climate and related controls on
interglacial river sedimentation in lowland Britain
1 & John Lewin2
1. Godwin Institute of Quaternary Research, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, CAMBRIDGE CB2 3EN, England, UK
2. Institute of Geography & Earth Sciences, University of Wales, ABERYSTWYTH SY23 2DB, Wales, UK. Institute of Geography and Earth Sciencies, University of Wales, Aberystwyth SY23 2DB, Wales, U.K.
Based on: Gibbard, P.L. & Lewin J. 2002 Climate and related controls on interglacial fluvial sedimentation in lowland Britain. Sedimentary Geology 151 , 187-210 .
Phase ii , Phase iii
Phase iii and Phase iv
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- Interglacial fluvial sediments
- Alluvial sedimentation styles
- Identification and subdivision of interglacial
Devensian (Weichselian) Late-glacial -Holocene (Flandrian) fluvial sequences
as an analogue
The pattern and implications of Interglacial fluvial sedimentation
- Fph i. Late-glacial – interglacial transition (Substages late-glacial to I)
- Fph ii. Full interglacial (Substage II)
- Fph iii. Full interglacial (Substages
late II – III)
- Fph iv. Late interglacial rejuvenation and dissection (late Substage III to Early-glacial)
- Full-glacial .
- Discussion and Conclusions
The figures were drawn by Owen Tucker of the Cartography and Reprographics Unit of the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.
Although interglacial fluvial sediments have been studied in detail, in particular to understand their stratigraphical significance for subdivision of fluvial and related sequences in general, most of the research has been undertaken by palaeontologists. This is because the sediments are often highly fossiliferous and therefore hold important implications for biostratigraphical and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. With all these studies, it is surprising perhaps that the sediments themselves have received relatively little attention. This is less true of Holocene (Flandrian; post-glacial) sequences which, often in association with archaeological investigations, have yielded important insights into sedimentation controls and timing.
Whilst the importance of interglacial fluvial sediments cannot be overestimated for subdivision of Quaternary successions both within and beyond glaciated areas, the character of the sedimentary record at any one locality is markedly discontinuous, and shows high lateral facies variability. This includes a strong local ‘overprinting’ on any regional climate and environmental changes and, although often richly fossiliferous, sections frequently fail to provide unequivocal evidence of age. Preservation of materials from different parts of interglacial stages also appears to be markedly unequal.
Therefore, setting aside questions concerning the number and correlation of interglacial (temperate) sequences in the region, these considerations point to the need to examine processes of interglacial sedimentation. They include both the likely changes in sedimentation style as interglacials proceed, and the effects they may have on preservation potential of earlier deposits. Some channel patterns involve extensive valley-floor reworking of alluvial sediments by laterally-mobile channels, as in the case of many braided streams. Others involve rivers of restricted mobility, together with overbank sedimentation which may blanket but not remove prior alluvial channels and deposits, as in the case of stable meandering or anastomosing rivers. The sequence of channel styles is important, because this determines both their amounts of vertical and lateral sedimentation within valleys, and the extent to which earlier materials are removed or remain to dominate later, less extensive depositional domains.
This paper attempts a reconstruction of the sequence of fluvial sedimentation styles produced by rivers responding to cool temperate events repeatedly represented in the Pleistocene, to see if general patterns may be discerned. This is seen as especially important in that sedimentary styles and their sequences play a decisive role in determining the availability of a palaeontological record at any locality and time. The paper focuses on lowland Britain and its interglacial fluvial record, highlighting similarities and differences between events.
Since the present interglacial period (Holocene or Flandrian) is apparently similar in most respects to those of at least the last 0.75 My, it is reasonable to seek Pleistocene analogues in Holocene floodplain sequences. The use of Holocene analogues for previous interglacial sedimentation patterns is therefore also discussed.
For the purposes of this work, discussion is restricted to freshwater sequences, i.e. those sediments laid down entirely under a ‘normal’ middle-reach fluvial regime, downstream of predominantly erosional headwaters and upstream of any estuarine influences. The latter impose considerable modifications on fluvial sedimentary patterns, resulting from sea-level, tidal and water-mass interactions that impact on the entire sedimentary regime . Moreover, the volume of sediment deposited and therefore potentially likely to be preserved in estuarine situations is much increased. An example of interglacial estuarine sedimentation in the region is discussed by Gibbard (1994).
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