- The development of the Amazonian mega-wetland (Miocene; Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia)
- Book title
- Amazonia: landscape and species evolution: a look into the past
- Pages (from-to)
- Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
The scenery of Western Amazonia once consisted of fluvial systems that originated on the Amazonian Craton and were directed towards the sub-Andean zone and the Caribbean. In the course of the Early Miocene these fluvial systems were largely replaced by lakes, swamps, tidal channels and marginal marine embayments, forming a mega-wetland. In this chapter we will review the characteristics of this mega-wetland and its different phases of development. These aquatic environments hosted a diverse fauna whereas the shores of these systems were fringed by palm swamps, and a diverse rainforest occurred in the peripheral dry lands. The genesis of this wetland was primarily driven by geological mechanisms such as the Andean uplift, and an increase in accommodation space in the sub-Andean and intracratonic basins. Additionally, high precipitation rates also played an important role in wetland formation. The earliest phase of wetland development is recorded in boreholes drilled in the sub-Andean foreland basins of Peru and Colombia, and in the intracratonic Solimões Basin of western Brazil. During the latest Oligocene to Early Miocene (~24 to 16 Ma) lacustrine conditions alternated with episodes of Andean and cratonic fluvial drainage as well as marginal marine influence. In Amazonia, marine incursions are intercalated as thin beds in the Middle to Upper Miocene fluvial strata and contain marine and coastal taxa (foraminifera, mangrove pollen). Lacustrine conditions expanded further during the Middle Miocene to early Late Miocene (~16 to 11.3 Ma; Pebas phase). During this period the lake-embayment and swamp systems - fringed by forested lowland - reached their maximum extension. This wetland was subject to marginal marine influence and sustained a large radiation of endemic aquatic invertebrate faunas. During its maximum extent the wetland covered an area of more than 1.5 × 106 km2 - comprising much of the Present western Amazonian lowlands. From the Late Miocene onwards uplift rates in the Eastern Cordillera, Cordillera Real and Cordillera de Merida substantially increased and the Andes became a continuous barrier. This barrier effectively separated lowland Amazonia from Orinoquia and the Magdalena Valley and closed off all lowland connections with the Pacific and the Caribbean. The wetland system became a complex environment where deltaic, estuarine and fluvial environments coexisted. This Late Miocene fluvial-tidal-dominated wetland (~11.3 to 7 Ma, Acre phase) hosted a species-rich vertebrate fauna, but (in contrast to the Pebas phase), the molluscan fauna was species poor and already strongly resembled the modern Amazonian fluvial fauna. This system represents the onset of the transcontinental Amazon River. From 11.3 Ma onwards, sediments of Andean origin reached the Atlantic continental shelf and initiated the build-up of the Amazon Fan.
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