Quaternary, Midland Valley of Scotland

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From: Cameron, I B, and Stephenson, D. 1985. British regional geology: The Midland Valley of Scotland. Third edition. Reprint 2014. Keyworth, Nottingham: British Geological Survey.

Quaternary, introduction

The Quaternary period extends from about 2 Ma to the present day and it is characterised by considerable and repeated climatic fluctuations. Temperate episodes during which conditions were similar to, or warmer than, the present day alternated with episodes of arctic conditions. During the colder glacial periods, glaciers and ice-sheets formed at relatively low latitudes in areas of sufficient precipitation. At its maximum extent the ice-sheet which covered much of northern Europe and the British Isles extended as far south as the Thames. Stratigraphical and biological evidence for several episodes of glaciation has been found at several sites in East Anglia and the Midlands of England. The stratigraphical subdivison of the Quaternary reflects the climatic fluctuations and the stages of the Quaternary represent alternating cold and temperate episodes. Indications of climatic conditions are given by pollen analyses, aquatic faunas and a study of insect assemblages, particularly Coleoptera (beetles). The latter have a much more rapid response to climatic change than does the tree cover.

The evidence of a sequence of glacial and interglacial episodes in England implies that Scotland also underwent several glaciations during the Quaternary. Interglacial sites in Scotland are few and in the Midland Valley there is little evidence of events prior to the last glaciation. With the exception of one or two instances, older Quaternary deposits have either not been recognised or have been obliterated by the effects of the last glaciation. Only the two youngest stages of the Quaternary are known. The Devensian Stage includes the glacial and fluvioglacial deposits, and the Flandrian Stage is represented by the post-glacial deposits. The boundary between the Devensian and Flandrian Stages is taken at 10 000 years B.P. (radiocarbon years before present).

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