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Abstract

The succession of the Carboniferous System is questionably the most intensively studied part of the geological column in Britain and Ireland, and developments in this region continue to have implications on international correlation. The system is also probably the most geographically widespread, present at outcrop over much of the Midland Valley of Scotland, northern and central England, North and South Wales, SW England and much of Ireland. Significant areas of Carboniferous strata have also been identified at depth in eastern and southern England and in offshore areas of the North Sea and Irish Sea.

The initial driver for investigations was the economic importance of Carboniferous strata, with the presence of large volumes of coal, sandstone, limestone, brick clay and ironstone helping to fuel the Industrial Revolution. Much of this early work occurred long before guidance was available for best-practice in naming lithostratigraphical units. Consequently, a haphazard approach to the establishment of the hierarchy of units resulted, with numerous local nomenclatures ensuing. To a certain extent, this complexity in nomenclature hindered the regional understanding of the Carboniferous successions in Great Britain. However, during the early part of the 20th century significant developments in biostratigraphy started to allow the widespread correlation of units, not previously possible. By the time of the publication of the two Geological Society Special Reports, for the Dinantian (George et al. 1976) and Silesian (Ramsbottom et al. 1978) the biostratigraphical framework was well established and both publications were instrumental in establishing and promoting a new chronostratigraphical nomenclature upon which the current system is based.

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