Palaeoenvironments are depositional environments of the geological past. Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions are based on the combined evidence from physical sedimentology and the fossil content.

Keywords: palaeoenvironments; sedimentology; facies analysis; palaeoecology; communities

Figure 1.

Schematic block diagram showing major marine and nonmarine, depositional environments. Key. 1, beach; 2, estuary; 3, tidal flat; 4, delta; 5, lagoons, bays; 6, subtidal bars, shoals; 7, nearshore shallow shelf; 8, offshore lower shelf; 9, deep sea fan; 10, deep sea plain; 11, river channel; 12, flood plain; 13, alluvial fan; 14, lake.

Figure 2.

Schematic diagram of the geomorphology and sedimentary facies relationships of a Recent delta. (a) Cross‐section in an onshore–offshore direction. (b) Cross‐section parallel to the coastline. (c) Vertical section, e.g. in a borehole, showing the coarsening‐upward sequence typical of a prograding delta. Adapted from Selley RC (1978) Ancient Sedimentary Environments. London: Chapman and Hall. With kind permission from Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Figure 3.

Illustration of a palaeocommunity from the Early Jurassic of Chile. The palaeocommunity is dominated by epifaunal and various deep‐burrowing bivalves. Less common are brachiopods and corals; 12–14 are traces. (a) Relative abundance of constituent species in the trophic nucleus (that is, the numerically most important elements that make up 80% of the fauna). (b) Schematic reconstruction of the palaeocommunity. Key: 1, Weyla alata (bivalve); 2, Entolium corneolum (bivalve); 3, Pleuromya uniformis (bivalve); 4, Montlivaltia sp. (coral); 5, Pholadomya corrugata (bivalve); 6, Pinna sp. (bivalve); 7, Gryphaea sp. (bivalve); 8, arcticid bivalve; 9, terebratulid brachiopod; 10, Mesomiltha bellona (bivalve); 11, Quadratirhynchia lenticulata (brachiopod); 12, Thalassinoides (trace); 13, Diplocraterion (trace); 14, Ophiomorpha (trace).


Further Reading

Brenchley PJ and Harper DAT (1998) Palaeoecology: Ecosystems, Environments and Evolution. London: Chapman & Hall.

Dodd JR and Stanton RJ Jr (1990) Paleoecology, Concepts and Applications. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Flügel E (1982) Microfacies Analysis of Limestones. Berlin: Springer‐Verlag.

Reading HG (1978) Sedimentary Environments and Facies. Oxford: Blackwell.

Reineck H‐E and Singh IB (1980) Depositional Sedimentary Environments. Berlin: Springer‐Verlag.

Selley RC (1978) Ancient Sedimentary Environments. London: Chapman & Hall.

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How to Cite close
Aberhan, Martin(Jan 2002) Palaeoenvironments. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001629]