Abstract

Upper Quaternary sequences of the Po Plain (Italy) were used to assess the informative strength and sequence-stratigraphic overprint of quantitative paleoecological patterns. Three densely sampled cores (89 samples, 98 genera, 23,280 specimens), dominated by extant mollusk species with known environmental distributions, were analyzed with detrended correspondence analysis (DCA). The DCA scores, calibrated using extant genera, provided outstanding estimates of bathymetry (±3 m) and related environmental parameters. Depth-related successions of mollusk associations delineated by using DCA were consistent with independent sequence-stratigraphic interpretations and yielded insights inaccessible via routine techniques (e.g., depth estimates for maximum flooding surfaces). The DCA ordination demonstrates the severity of the sequence-stratigraphic overprint: samples are highly uniform taxonomically during late transgressive systems tracts and highly variable during the following highstand systems tracts. When analyzed across comparable systems tracts, similar species associations repeat during the last and current interglacial cycles, suggesting that Po Plain mollusk associations have remained remarkably stable over the past 125 k.y. The results are consistent with the bathymetric interpretation of the DC axis 1 postulated previously for the Paleozoic fossil record, demonstrate the sequence-stratigraphic overprint of paleoecological patterns predicted by computer modeling, and illustrate the utility of quantitative paleoecological patterns in augmenting sequence-stratigraphic interpretations.

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