CENOZOIC TERRESTRIAL PALAEOENVIRONEMTAL CHANGE: AN INVESTIGATION OF THE PETROCKSTOWE AND BOVEY BASINS, SOUTH WEST UNITED KINGDOM
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The Petrockstowe and Bovey basins are two similar pull apart (strike slip) basins located on the Sticklepath – Lustleigh Fault Zone (SLFZ) in Devon, SW England. The SLFZ is one of the several faults on the Cornubian Peninsula and may be linked to Variscan structures rejuvenated in Palaeogene times. The bulk of the basins’ fill consists of clays, silts, lignites and sands of Palaeogene age, comparable to the Lough Neagh Basin (Northern Ireland), which is also thought to be part of the SLFZ. In this study a multiproxy approach involving sedimentary facies analysis, palynological analysis, stable carbon isotope (δ13C) analysis and organic carbon palaeothermometer analyses were applied in an attempt to understand the depositional environment in both basins. A negative carbon isotope excursion (CIE) with a magnitude of 2‰ was recorded at ~ 580 m in the siltstone, silty clay to clay lithofacies in the lower part of Petrockstowe Basin, with minimum δ13CTOC values of -28.6‰. The CIE spans a depth of 7 m. Palynological characteristics of this excursion are correlated with the Cogham Lignite in the southern UK, which is the only established PETM section in the UK, and other continental sections to test whether the palynology associated with this CIE can be used to date it. The age model proposed herein correlates the CIE to the Eocene Thermal Maximum -2 (ETM2; ~ 52.5Ma) event. Key pollen and spore assemblages found in the lower Petrockstowe Basin are Monocolpopollenites, Inaperturopollenites, Laevigatisporites, Bisaccate conifer pollen and Tricolporopollenites, which suggest an Eocene age, while those occurring in the upper part of the Petrockstowe and Bovey basins are Arecipites, Inaperturopollenites, Monocolpopollenites, Tricolporopollenites, Sequoiapollenites, and Pompeckjodaepollenites, which have suggested botanical affinities to modern tropical to sub-tropical genera signifying a climate that was frost-free at the time of sediment deposition. This assemblage further suggests that these sediments are Oligocene to middle Oligocene in age. In the upper part of the Petrockstowe Basin, reconstructed mean annual air temperatures (MAT) demonstrate a clear departure from the mean temperature of 24.5oC at 10 m to 19.5oC towards the top of the core, indicating a steady continuous decline similar to the temperature departures seen in the Solent Group in the Hampshire Basin, Isle of Wight, UK which has an established Eocene – Oligocene succession.
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