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Status and scope of Pleistocene palaeoenvironmental studies of Svalbard coastal sediments

Biodiversity International Journal
Singh V,1 Barinova SS2

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The late Quaternary terrestrial sequences of Svalbard hold important information about the inception, duration, and termination of glaciations, deglaciations as well as related sea-level fluctuations. It was previously believed that the sedimentary record of older glaciations would have been eroded by preceding glaciations. This idea was modified by the later investigations reporting the presence of deposits of the Saalian age. Although the records are fragmentary they are found exposed at several sites around coastal Svalbard. Several investigations have been conducted to decipher the sedimentology, lithostratigraphy, aminoacid geochronology, radiocarbon dating, and other absolute dating methods have been used to put the glacial, deglacial, and marine depositional events in a strong chronological framework. The successive efforts to refine the chronology of the events recorded in these sequences have provided the revised ages for important climate events and have also led to the identification of previously unknown events. On the contrary, the microfossil-based studies of the sedimentary sequences that were initiated along with the chronological studies have not been investigated in comparable detail and thus remain understudied. The foraminifer forms the only microfossil and/or microfaunal group widely recovered from various sedimentary units of these sequences. They have been studied along with mollusc fossils and have added to the utility of fossil-based reconstruction of environmental conditions of the past. This study is aimed to provide a synthesis of the late Quaternary paleoclimate and paleoenvironmental studies conducted in the High Arctic Region of Svalbard that has utilized the potentially important fossil remains preserved in the raised marine sedimentary sequences. The overview of the studies reflects that microfossils can be used to infer depth, salinity, turbidity, nutrient availability, oxygenation of the watercolumn, temperature, and ocean currents. It is also noteworthy that the foraminifer and mollusc have not been able to provide a definitive distinction between interglacial and interstadial environmental/oceanographic signatures. This could be addressed by concerted attempts and detailed studies to assess the full potential of exposed coastal sedimentary successions by studying the preserved microfossils.


Middle Weichselian, foraminifera, molluscs, palaeoceanography, microfossils, interglacial