The Devonian System of Euramerica contains at least 14 transgressive-regressive (T-R) cycles of eustatic origin. These are separated into three groups (or depophases) and from Carboniferous cycles by three prominent regressions. Twelve post-Lochkovian T-R cycles are recognized, and they commonly appear to result from abrupt deepening events followed by prolonged upward shallowing. Deepening events in the western United States (especially Nevada), western Canada, New York, Belgium, and Germany have been dated in the standard conodont zonation and are demonstrably simultaneous in several or all five regions. This synchroneity indicates control by eustatic sea-level fluctuations rather than by local or regional epeirogeny. Facies shifts in shelf sedimentary successions are more reliable indicators of the timing of sea-level fluctuations than are strandline shifts in the cratonic interior, because the latter are more influenced by local epeirogeny. Strandline shifts are most useful in estimating the relative magnitude for sea-level fluctuations.
Devonian facies progressions and the three prominent regressions are of a duration and an order of magnitude that could have been caused by episodes of growth and decay of Devonian oceanic ridge systems. The described T-R cycles could have formed in response to mid-plate thermal uplift and submarine volcanism. The latter process may have been a control on small-scale (1–5 m thick), upward-shallowing cycles within the major T-R cycles. Continental glaciation could have been a factor in sea-level fluctuations only in the Famennian and could not have been responsible for the Devonian facies progressions or the numerous T-R cycles.
The Frasnian extinctions were apparently cumulative rather than due to a single calamity. Two rapid sea-level rises occurred just before, and one at, the Frasnian-Famennian boundary. It is probable that this series of deepening events reduced the size of shallow-shelf habitats, caused repeated anoxic conditions in basinal areas, and drowned the reef ecosystems that had sustained the immensely diverse Devonian benthos.