Product has been added to the basket

February 2011

Fossils of the Gault Clay

Jeremy R. Young, Andrew S. Gale, Robin I. White & Andrew B. Smith (eds); Published by: The Palaeontological Association; Publication date: 2010; ISBN: 978-1-4443-3542-2; List price: £18.00; 342 pp, 57 plates.

GaultHundreds of budding geologists in the southeast of England (including this reviewer) must have cut their teeth on the Gault Clay at Folkestone, and will have cried out for an identification manual as clear and comprehensive as this. The book is number 12 in the series produced by the Palaeontological Association on the fossils of some of Britain’s most collectable deposits, and PalAss is to be congratulated on its continuing commitment to this series.

The book, while perhaps aimed mainly at collectors (who will find it an invaluable identification guide), is also a key reference work for those interested in the ecology and systematics of this abundant Cretaceous fauna. It is comprehensive, covering all the taxonomic groups likely to be found in the Gault (including the more specialist areas of bioimmuration, bioclaustrations and bioerosive trace fossils), and ranging from calcareous nannofossils to reptiles. The quality of the black-and-white photographs is excellent, and highlights the care with which the book has been produced. Importantly, given that it is likely to be well thumbed, the book has a high-quality binding that will withstand prolonged heavy use.

The book is more than an identification guide. As well as helpful introductory material on the Gault Clay it provides very useful guidance on sample preparation for microfossils, including vertebrate teeth and other elements, and on macrofaunal ecological associations found in the Gault. It may also stimulate renewed interest in the Gault among collectors, perhaps leading to new information on some of the less well-known groups, such as bryozoa. Most chapters clearly indicate that only the most common species are described, thereby avoiding the trap of implying that all species likely to be found in the Gault are illustrated. The extensive reference list provides the reader with a way into the more extensive historic literature, which will assist those looking to identify the rarer components of the fauna.

Perhaps the only disappointment is the lack of guidance on curation and preservation, especially the notoriously pyrite-rot-prone nature of many ammonites on which some advice would have been welcome. However this minor omission should not detract from the value of this impressive book to amateur and professional palaeontologists alike.

Reviewed by Keith Duff,

Periglacial and Paraglacial Processes and Environments

J Knight & S Harrison (eds) Geological Society Special Publication No.320, The Geological Society of London. Publication date: 2009; ISBN: 978-1-86239-281-6; List price: £90.00; GSL Member price: £45.00 272 pp;

KnightAway from the direct influence of glaciers and ice sheets, cold climate conditions create distinctive environments characterised by intense freeze-thaw processes and permafrost. Such periglacial environments were formerly more extensive during Pleistocene glaciations both in lowland areas of the Arctic and mid-latitudes as well as in mountains. As global climate warmed spasmodically into the present interglacial, landscapes responded to the removal of land ice and permafrost melting through a sequence of complex responses, including a readjustment to high sediment availability for transport by newly developing fluvial systems. It was to this particular situation that the term ‘paraglacial’ was coined about 30 years ago. Since then the concept has been developed and extended to cover other geomorphic situations.

This SP is divided into three sections, the first dealing with periglacial environments. This is followed by a section on paraglacial processes and environments in the British Isles, and a final section relating to more general paraglacial issues. Individual papers range from subject overviews to site-specific investigations. In the opening section, a key paper is the evaluation of periglacial geomorphology from a French perspective; this provides useful discussion on global change issues and the ‘paraglacial fever’ that seems more prevalent in the British Isles.

It is to this ‘paraglacial concept’ that many of the ensuing papers are devoted, either with doctrinal adherence or with more thoughtful evaluation with respect to the environmental sensitivity of cold climates. As with many concepts, it has been redefined and extended beyond the intentions of the original authors to include a range of geomorphic situations and timescales. Thus, depending on your point of view, some papers will be observed to develop ‘paraglacial’ using the word with dogmatic zeal; while others reflect that the term is overused, adding little new understanding, particularly when it involves dropping consideration of distinctive periglacial conditions and environmental control. Here, the important paper (by Slaymaker) is a rational evaluation of the topic and raises the significant theme of disturbance regime landscapes, well developed by Hewitt in a later paper.

Overall, this is an interesting publication bringing together a number of studies that demonstrate key issues in cold-climate geomorphology and elaborate on the subject’s role, with particular reference to sensitive environmental responses to ongoing climate change. The collection provides a thoughtful commentary on the paraglacial concept.

Reviewed by Wishart A Mitchell,
Department of Geography, Durham University