The sedimentary record of Carboniferous rivers: Continuing influence of land plant evolution on alluvial processes and Palaeozoic ecosystems

Davies, Neil S. and Gibling, Martin R. (2013) The sedimentary record of Carboniferous rivers: Continuing influence of land plant evolution on alluvial processes and Palaeozoic ecosystems. Earth-Science Reviews, 120. pp. 40-79. ISSN 0012-8252 DOI 10.1016/j.earscirev.2013.02.004

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Abstract

Abstract Evidence from modern rivers and the deep-time geological record attests to the fundamental importance of plant life for the construction of physical habitats within fluvial environments. Data from an extensive literature review and original fieldwork demonstrates that many landforms and geomorphic features of modern river systems appear in the Palaeozoic stratigraphic record once terrestrial vegetation had adopted certain evolutionary advances. For example, stable point bars are associated with the onset of rooted plants in the Siluro-Devonian and avulsive and anabranching fluvial systems become common at the same time as extensive arborescent vegetation in the Carboniferous. In this paper, we demonstrate a correlation between the diversification of physical fluvial environments and the expansion of terrestrial fauna and flora, with an emphasis on the culmination of these trends within Carboniferous alluvial systems. Many extrinsic factors have been considered as possible controls on the evolutionary timelines of terrestrialization for organisms. However, a fundamental prerequisite for achieving terrestrial biodiversity was the variety of physical habitats, especially riparian systems, available for newly evolved organisms. In association with abundant lowland meandering systems, the widespread appearance across Carboniferous alluvial plains of fixed-channel and anabranching reaches created further physical landforms for colonization and would have promoted increasingly complex hyporheic flow regimes. Furthermore the associated increase in arborescent vegetation and supply of large woody debris to inland and coastal rivers would have created a wealth of microhabitats for continental organisms. We argue that the expanding extent and diversity of physical alluvial niches during the Palaeozoic is an underappreciated driver of the terrestrialization of early continental life. The study of the deep-time fossil and stratigraphic record also illustrates that vegetation is a fundamental prerequisite for the creation of biogeomorphic alluvial landforms and physical habitats and microhabitats.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2013AREP; IA65;
Subjects: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Divisions: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Journal or Publication Title: Earth-Science Reviews
Volume: 120
Page Range: pp. 40-79
Identification Number: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2013.02.004
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 23 May 2013 15:55
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2013 09:44
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/2777

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