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La formation d'Herzeele : un nouveau stratotype du Pléistocène moyen marin de la mer du Nord

Bulletin de l Association française pour l étude du quaternaire
PERSEE Program
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3406/quate.1978.1334
  • Earth Science


The Herzeele Brickyard (Northern France) offers a permanently well exposed outcrop of continental and marine deposits which are reaching a total thickness of 6 m and are overlying the Ypresian clay of eocene age, occuring at about 8 m N.G.F. Three marine phases represented by tidal flat and brackish sediments may be readily distinguished. The tidal flat sediments have previously been recognized in the area of Izenberge (Belgium) from which locality the name "Izenberge Cardium Sands" has been derived. The marine sediments may be subdivised into units of different lithology : the lower sandy unit, the middle loamy-clayey unit and the upper sandy clayey unit which latter is characterized by the abundance of Cardium edule and Macoma balthica. The marine phases are furthermore separated by continental deposits amongst which peat layers are occurring. The cover sediments are represented by eolian sands and loams interfering with palaeosoils. The series of sediments underlying these cover deposits is named the "Herzeele Formation" which represents a hthostratigraphical unit in the southern North Sea basin. The analysis of the heavy mineral content points to a change in sediment origin occuring after the lower marine sedimentation. The middle and upper marine units contain an increasing content of green hornblende and epidote. Some volcanic minerals were observed at different levels. The clay analyses by means of X-ray diffraction indicate that the different lithostratigraphical units bear polymineralic clay assemblages within which the smectitic fraction is predominant. Greene-Kelly's (1953) Li-test yielded a further detailed analysis of the smectitic components : beidellite, montmorillonite-like minerals as well as random mixed-layers illite-smectites. The analysis indicates a stratigraphical - mineralogical subdivision of the section which coincides with the lithostratigraphical one. The pollenanalytical data show that the whole of the Herzeele Formation most probably belongs to the second half of the Holsteinian interglacial, except for the very base composed of glauconiferous sands. It may readily be seen that the forest evolved from a mesocratic phase, characterized by a Quercetum mixtum with Picea, towards a telocratic phase dunng which the forest became dominated by Abies. Within the peat which is resting upon the glauconiferous sands, the pollen grains of Taxus, are very abundant in the overlying clay however, this species declines gradually and disappears at the top of the upper marine unit. These evidences are corresponding with the first half of the so-called Abies- zone. Buxus and Vitis, both undergo the same evolution. The only Tertiary relict, Pterocarya, made a short appearance at the top of the upper manne unit, while Azolla filicubides, was only discovered in the Quercetum zone. The diatom analyses indicate the conditions of brackish and marine sedimentation in a tidal environment. Although the magnetostratigraphical approach of deep-sea and lake sediments has proven to be successful, its application to continental and especially coastal sediments is hampered by the very nature of these sediments (large variation of sedimentation rate, depositional environment, lithology, a.o.) The palaeomagnetical study of the Herzeele Formation reveals a striking difference in magnetic behaviour between the upper and lower beds separated by the lowermost peat layer. The upper beds are characterized by a strong dispersion of the magnetisation directions and a low intensity. Therefore identification of clear-cut magnetozone(s) is not possible for the moment being. As to the extension of the Herzeele Formation in Belgium, it was only found south of the river Yzer. The comparison with the area of Izenberge itself did not reveal any lithostratigraphical correlation with the Herzeele Formation. The situation of the stratum (former shoreline) at this type-locality gives prove of the importance of the palaeographical evolution since the Lower Pleistocene with the formation of the southern North Sea basin and probably the early opening of the Strait of Dover as well. Therefore this stratum is considered as a landmark and a witness of several interglacial marine transgressions which are attributed to the Holsteinian and to the upper part of the "Cromerian complex".

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