The lacustrine deposits of Fornaci di Ranica (late Early Pleistocene, Italian Pre-Alps): stratigraphy, palaeoenvironment and geological evolution

Ravazzi, Cesare; Pini, Roberta; Breda, Marzia; Martinetto, Edoardo; Muttoni, Giovanni; Chiesa, Sergio; Confortini, Federico; Egli, Ramon (2005). The lacustrine deposits of Fornaci di Ranica (late Early Pleistocene, Italian Pre-Alps): stratigraphy, palaeoenvironment and geological evolution. Quaternary international, 131(1), pp. 35-58. Elsevier 10.1016/j.quaint.2004.07.021

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An interdisciplinary investigation of the Pleistocene clay succession of Fornaci di Ranica (Italian Pre-Alps) aimed to reconstruct the palaeoenvironmental history and its chronostratigraphic position and to consider the implications for the Quaternary evolution of the southern alpine borderland near the Early/Middle Pleistocene transition. A detailed survey of Quaternary deposits in boreholes and exposed sections provided a complete record of the basin. The most complete core was analyzed for palynology and magnetic properties. Plant macrofossils were obtained by flotation. Pollen and spectrometric analysis allowed a precise stratigraphic placement of a moose antler and braincase kept in museum collections. The basin originated from fluviatile obstruction of a tributary valley cut into bedrock. The basal deposits formed as a terrestrial hydromorphic soil under a dense Tsuga-forest (zone RNC 1). The overlying palustrine gyttja shows a marked forest withdrawal with a climatic signature (zone RNC 3), followed by a re-establishment of mixed conifer forests (zones RNC 4-6). The occurrences of pollen of cold-adapted taxa (Saxifraga oppositifolia type, Saxifraga stellaris type, Larix), are the oldest so far known south of the Alps and suggest that mean summer temperature was near or even below the thermic tree limit. High herb diversity, partially represented by tall forbs, characterizes this zone. A further increase of the water table can be assumed in zones RNC 4 and RNC 5, since pollen of aquatic plants increases. The find of Larix decidua L. cones demonstrates the existence of the European larch in the Early Pleistocene of the Alps, previously not identified at the species level. After the Serio river had reached the maximum Quaternary aggradation, the lake was rapidly filled up with turbiditic sediments. The identification of Cervalces latifrons (Johnson, 1874) by Azzaroli (Palaeantogr. Italica 71(1979) 48) was confirmed. Pollen spectra obtained from clay fragments preserved in the braincase allowed us to constrain the stratigraphic position of these fossil remains in the lower palustrine portion of the sequence. Pollen and moose palaeoecology corroborate the reconstruction of a boreal landscape. The succession of Fornaci di Ranica is attributed to the late Early Pleistocene on the basis of the following elements: (i) the occurrence of an acme pollen zone of Tsuga, with Carya and Pteroearya; (ii) the low representation of Cedrus; (iii) the biochronology of Cervalces latifrons; (iv) normal fossil magnetic polarity, interpreted as part of the Jaramillo subchron on the basis of correlations with other studied sections from the same region, and, finally, (v) indications from the regional geological evolution. The basin deposits spanned the final stage of a temperate period and the subsequent transition to a cold phase during the Jaramillo subchron or the Cobb cryptochron. The basin originated by fluvioglacial aggradation, triggered by glaciation in the northern part of the Serio river catchement. The lake succession may represent an episode of marked increase of polar ice volume related to MIS (36) 30, or 28. The correlation with the Leffe sequence also suggests that cold climate conditions inferred for pollen zone RNC 3 did not occur earlier in the Early Pleistocene of this region. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

20 Feb 2020 13:09

Last Modified:

20 Feb 2020 13:09

Publisher DOI:


Additional Information:

Meeting on European Subcommission for Quaternary Stratigraphy (SEQS), Bari, ITALY, SEP 25-29, 2000




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