Eastern North America
The Cap-aux-Os Member (of Emsian age) of the Battery Point Formation, Gaspé Bay, Québec, comprises coastal and fluvial deposits containing abundant, well-preserved remains of early land plants (embryophytes). Metres-thick sandstone bodies represent the deposits of the main river channels, including some that were tidally influenced. Thinner sandstone bodies within mudstone successions represent deposits of crevasse splays–levees, lacustrine deltas, tidal channels, flood-tidal deltas and washovers. Mudstone-dominant strata represent backswamps and marshes, lakes, coastal bays and tidal flats. Certain plants (trimerophytes, Huvenia and Sciadophyton) are particularly common on the moist, upper parts of near-coastal channel bars. They apparently germinated and grew rapidly on freshly exposed muds deposited during floods or exceptionally high tides. In situ zosterophylls are most common in backswamp and marshy areas, where they formed extensive, relatively long-lived stands. It is uncertain whether these plants were tolerant of brackish water or killed by it. However, absence of acritarchs in these in situ plant horizons suggests that they occupied primarily freshwater habitats. Transported Prototaxites and Spongiophyton, both interpreted as possible fungi, are the main components of fully non-marine channel deposits. It is no coincidence that the best-preserved plants are those that lived in moist, oxygen-poor settings. However, the occurrence of root traces in palaeosols and sparse fossil evidence suggests that embryophytes also occupied drier settings.
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New Perspectives on the Old Red Sandstone
From the 1960s onwards, the Old Red Sandstone of both borders of the Atlantic Ocean has acted as a test-bed for the development of new ideas on the interpretation of fluvial, lacustrine and aeolian sedimentary rocks, and the investigation of tectonically-active basins. Much of the earlier reconnaissance work is now being reviewed in the light of further detailed field study, along with new developments in the understanding of the biostratigraphy, palaeobiology, geochronology, pedogenesis and tectonics.
Three general papers review recent work on the stratigraphical and chronological analysis of the Late Silurian, Devonian and Early Carboniferous strata, and summarize present understanding of the tectonics of the basins. These are then followed by twenty-seven contributions covering new work in Eastern USA, Canada, Ireland, Britain, Norway, Greenland and Spitsbergen.