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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

IGCP 449 / 518

A research project of the Department of Geography.


International Geoscience Programme (IGCP: formerly International Geologcal Correlation Programme) project nos. 449 and 518 both apply to fluvial records. Running consecutively, their details are as follows: IGCP 449 'Global Correlation of Late Cenozoic fluvial deposits', 2000 - 2004; IGCP 518 'Fluvial sequences as evidence for landscape and climatic evolution in the Late Cenozoic', 2004 - 2009. They were/are collaborative international projects compiling and comparing data on fluvial sequences Worldwide.David Bridgland (Durham Geography) has been co-leader of both projects.

Project No. 449, now completed, involved countries as widely separated as Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Morocco, Russia, South Africa and Turkey. It was always known that the project would be building upon an already-well-researched body of European data, and so it proved. Nevertheless, the project facilitated the dissemination of important European data that was previously difficult to access in English. To this European resource was added significant quantities of data from pre-existing research in the former Soviet Block (the countries of central and eastern Europe, the Russian Federation and Siberia), made accessible in English-language publications for the first time thanks to IGCP 449. Extending documented research on fluvial sequences beyond these core areas was fundamental to the project’s success in achieving a coverage that could be considered as truly global. This level of coverage was achieved (although not without gaps), partly by holding and/or sponsoring meetings in target areas. Highlights in this respect were meetings in India, Morocco and Brazil, the last of which acted as a catalyst for wider activity in South America that will largely bear fruit following the end of the project (in Project 518). Other highlights have been the recognition of important long-timescale fluvial records in the Middle East and Turkey. Significant gaps remain, such as China, where important records are known to exist but where all attempts to organize a meeting that would have instigated project activity were thwarted. It is anticipated that a meeting during Year 2 of the follow-up project (IGCP 518) will make good this and other shortcomings and continue the task of data collection initiated by Project 449, as well as the further compilation of the internet database (see below). Plans exist for an IGCP 518 Chinese meeting in summer 2006, to be led by Prof. Zhongyuan Chen (East China Normal University, Shanghai) with, as its theme, the Late Cenozoic evolution of the River Yangtze.

Project No. 518, which is ongoing, seeks to continue the compilation and comparison of worldwide data from Late Cenozoic fluvial environments that was begun by the earlier project (449). It thus builds upon the achievements of IGCP 449, enabling continuation of the activities instigated by the former project, and in particular the compilation of the data archive. Importantly, the new project also seeks to develop some important themes that were recognized in the earlier project, but which deserve additional emphasis. The first is landscape evolution, for which the fluvial record can provide a wealth of important evidence. Important and unexpected patterns of landscape evolution, linked to different crustal types, were discovered as a direct result of IGCP 449 data collection (see Westaway, Bridgland and Mishra, 2003, Terra Nova 15, 287-293). The second important theme is climatic evolution as evidenced from fluvial records; palaeoclimate is a major topic for Quaternary research involving all environments, but one in which the fluvial contribution has generally been underplayed hitherto. Fluvial sediments can reveal direct and indirect evidence for climate at the time of deposition and fluvial activity is greatly influenced by climate, leading to a correlation between climatic cycles and cyclic fluvial activity, such as terrace formation (see Bridgland, 2000, Quaternary Science Reviews 19, 1293-1303). Themes that were previously developed as working groups within IGCP 449 will also continue, namely 'Archaeology from fluvial sequences', 'Biostratigraphy from fluvial sequences' and 'Crustal Deformation & Uplift Modelling based on fluvial evidence'.


From the Department of Geography

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