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Volume 19 Issue 2 (February 2009)

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Article, pp. 4-10 | PDF (408KB)

A shift from lithostratigraphic to allostratigraphic classification of Quaternary glacial deposits

M.E. Räsänena, J.M. Aurib, J.V. Huittic, A.K. Klapc, and J.J. Virtasaloc

a Department of Geology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland,
b Geological Survey of Finland, Vaasantie 6, 67100 Kokkola, Finland
c Department of Geology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland

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The bedrock of the northern halves of North America and Europe is covered by Quaternary glacial deposits, forming a surficial overburden that is relatively thin, nonlithified, lithologically variable on a small scale (in terms of grain-size, mineralogy, texture, fabric, structure, and color), and often has a well-preserved depositional topography. These geologically unique characteristics and the fact that the glacial overburden was long considered to be of only restricted economic value have caused it to be treated differently in geological research from the older, regularly lithified strata. Due to the striking geomorphology of these glacial deposits, their investigation has also been incorporated into physical geography research. Thus, the segregation of the Quaternary research community into different schools of geology and geography has created multiple classification approaches and has caused the formal stratigraphic classifications successfully applied in pre-Quaternary geology to be applied less regularly to Quaternary glacial strata. This has led to inefficient use of Quaternary geological data for scientific and socio-economic purposes.

The few currently existing national Quaternary stratigraphic frameworks are based on lithostratigraphy. These are poorly suited for describing deposits in glaciated shield areas in particular; we propose a classification for such areas based on the combined use of allostratigraphic and lithostratigraphic data, with alloformations as the fundamental units and lithostratigraphic units filling out the framework where appropriate. This classification would provide a hierarchical framework for glaciogenic deposits that could potentially support stratigraphic information systems, databases, and digital spatial models more effectively than the traditional lithostratigraphic frameworks.

Received: June 23, 2008; Accepted: November 20, 2008

DOI: 10.1130/GSATG20A.1