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The Permian (299-251 Ma; Wardlaw et al. 2004) succession of Central Europe records the change from a Pangaea configuration and compressive tectonic regime inherited from the Variscan Orogeny, to the development of the broad thermal subsidence-controlled Southern Permian Basin and its inundation by the Zechstein Sea. During latest Carboniferous-Early Permian times, the final phase of Variscan orogenic extension produced a series of small strike-slip and extensional continental basins across central and western Europe. Within these basins Stephanian and Lower Rotliegend continental successions were deposited. Subsequent thermal subsidence led to the gradual coalescence of these isolated basins to form the large Southern Permian Basin which extended across much of central and western Europe (Fig. 10.1).

Early Permian sedimentation was predominantly fluvial and lacustrine, changing later to aeolian. This change was due either to a significant climate change, or the result of a decline in relief of the surrounding uplands. By the end of the Early Permian extensive dunefields occupied the basin margins with saline lakes (playas) in the basin depocentres (Verdier 1996). A regional, possibly glacio-eustatic, rise in sea level later in Permian (Zechstein) times resulted in the rapid flooding (from the north) of the Southern Permian Basin. The Zechstein succession comprises a series of evaporitic cycles, and associated carbonates and muds, reflecting progressively greater evaporation and the shallowing either of the whole basin or the margins of the basin.

There has been a considerable amount of interest in the Permian in recent years, with a number

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