Palynological records of the Permian Ecca Group (South Africa): utilizing climatic icehouse-greenhouse signals for cross basin correlations

Katrin Ruckwied, Annette Götz, Phil Jones

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The Permian formations of the South African Karoo Basin play a crucial role in understanding Gondwana's climate history during this time of major global changes. In this paper we present two data sets, one from the coal-bearing Vryheid Formation (Witbank Basin) and one from the Whitehill and Upper Prince Albert formations of the DP 1/78 core (NE Karoo).

Our main goal was to study the vegetation changes during this period of global warming and test if the climatic signals could be used to correlate the basinal Ecca group facies with the fluvio-deltaic coal-bearing strata of the Witbank Basin. The palynological record of the No. 2 Coal Seam of the Vryheid Formation indicates a cold climate, fern wetland community, characteristic of lowland alluvial plains, and an upland conifer community in the lower part of the coal seam. Up section, these communities are replaced by a cool-temperate cycad-like lowland vegetation and gymnospermous upland flora. The data set of the DP 1/78 core is interpreted to represent a cool to warm temperate climate represented by a high amount of Gangamopteris and Glossopteris elements.

Both data sets are very different in their composition, which can be explained by the differences in depositional environment; however, our findings reveal a different age of the studied assemblages and thus also suggest that both data sets represent different stages in the transition from icehouse to greenhouse during Permian times. As the stratigraphic correlation between the Main Karroo Basin and the peripheral basins is still under discussion, this paper provides new data to underpin the stratigraphic placement of the Whitehill Formation relative to the coal-bearing Vryheid Formation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-172
Number of pages6
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Early online date20 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • palynology
  • palaeoclimate
  • Permian
  • Karoo
  • South Africa


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