Middle to Late Pleistocene palaeoecological reconstructions and palaeotemperature estimates for cold/cool stage deposits at Whittlesey, eastern England

Langford, H.E., Boreham, S., Briant, R.M., Coope, G.R., Horne, D.J., Schreve, D.C., Whittaker, J.E. and Whitehouse, N.J. (2014) Middle to Late Pleistocene palaeoecological reconstructions and palaeotemperature estimates for cold/cool stage deposits at Whittlesey, eastern England. Quaternary International, 341, pp. 6-26. (doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2014.01.037)

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Abstract

Fossiliferous beds in a complex sequence of late Middle to Late Pleistocene deposits at Whittlesey, eastern England, provided a rare opportunity for a multidisciplinary study of the palaeoecology of cool/cold stage deposits from different glacial stages. The fossiliferous sediments investigated form part of the River Nene 1st Terrace. Three of the four fossil assemblages investigated pre-date the last interglacial stage (Ipswichian/Eemian/marine oxygen isotope stage (MIS) 5e), whereas the other dates to part of the MIS 3 interstadial complex (Middle Devensian/Weichselian). Pollen, plant macrofossil, molluscan, coleopteran, ostracod, foraminifera and vertebrate data are available to a greater or lesser extent for each cool/cold stage assemblage, and they broadly present the same ecological picture for each one: a continuum from low-energy permanent to non-permanent aquatic habitats through marshland with associated waterside taxa, together with flood influxes of fluvial, riparian and ruderal taxa. Although each fossil assemblage records cool/cold climatic conditions, to a greater or lesser extent, these conditions are more apparent in the insect and ostracod faunas. In comparison with results published for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) stadial in The Netherlands, palaeotemperature estimates based on ranges of mutual agreement between independent coleopteran and ostracod methods for the three pre-Ipswichian/Eemian assemblages indicate minimum mean July air temperatures that are from +1° to +3 °C warmer, but January values that embrace the −8 °C estimate for the LGM. There is, however, a disparity between the coleopteran and ostracod palaeotemperature estimates for the Middle Devensian/Weichselian fossil assemblage, which are based on two different sample stratigraphic levels; the lower, coleopteran assemblage is indicative of very cool, continental climates, whereas the stratigraphically slightly higher ostracod assemblage suggests a climatic amelioration. Lack of numerical age-estimates prevents a robust stratigraphical interpretation, but the youngest pre-Ipswichian/Eemian fossil assemblage could date to the MIS 7–6 transition, at a time when cooling possibly preceded glacially driven sea-level fall. It is apparent from the rich coleopteran data that some continental cold-indicator taxa also appeared in pre-Ipswichian/Eemian cold stages and therefore assignment of continental cold-indicator taxa to particular Devensian/Weichselian intervals should be undertaken with care.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Whitehouse, Dr Nicki
Authors: Langford, H.E., Boreham, S., Briant, R.M., Coope, G.R., Horne, D.J., Schreve, D.C., Whittaker, J.E., and Whitehouse, N.J.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Journal Name:Quaternary International
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1040-6182
ISSN (Online):1873-4553
Published Online:20 February 2014

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