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The Devonian Landscape Factory: plant-sediment interactions in the Old Red Sandstone of Svalbard and the rise of vegetation as a biogeomorphic agent

Davies, Neil S., Berry, Christopher M., Marshall, John E. A., Wellman, Charles H. and Lindemann, Franz-Josef 2021. The Devonian Landscape Factory: plant-sediment interactions in the Old Red Sandstone of Svalbard and the rise of vegetation as a biogeomorphic agent. Journal of the Geological Society 178 , jgs2020-225. 10.1144/jgs2020-225
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Abstract

The Devonian Period was a crucial interval in the evolution of plants. During its 60 myr duration, it witnessed the successive evolution of roots, wood, trees and forests, and many of the biogeomorphic phenomena that operate in modern terrestrial environments came online for the first time. The Old Red Sandstone (ORS) of Svalbard consists of a near-continuous Silurian to Late Devonian record of land plant-colonized sedimentary environments and provides a perfect natural laboratory to aid understanding of the facies signatures and evolution of these phenomena. Here we describe and illustrate a catalogue of ORS features that provide evidence for the stepwise appearance of novel plant-sediment interactions, including: preserved plant material and rooting structures, early large woody debris accumulations, cannel coal deposits, and the oldest known vegetation-induced sedimentary structures, in addition to vegetation-influenced motifs of elevated mudrock content and complex alluvial sand bodies. These characteristics are combined to reconstruct changes to non-marine environments in this Devonian ‘landscape factory’. In addition to tectonic and climate influences, plant evolution first served as a control on the construction of the sedimentary record during this period and has persisted as a fundamental influence on Earth surface processes and landforms ever since.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Publisher: Geological Society
ISSN: 0016-7649
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 April 2021
Date of Acceptance: 18 March 2021
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2021 16:28
URI: http://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/140269

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