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Evolution of fluvial system during the


Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage
7) - A case study from the Błądzikowo...

Article in Quaternary International · October 2017


DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042

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Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11

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Quaternary International
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Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine


Isotope Stage 7) e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N
Poland
Robert J. Sokołowski a, *, Łukasz Janowski a, **, Anna Hrynowiecka b, Anatoly Molodkov c
a
Department of Marine Geology, Institute of Oceanography, University of Gdan  sk, Gdynia, Poland
b
Polish Geological Institute - National Research Institute, Marine Geology Branch, Gdan sk, Poland
c
Research Laboratory for Quaternary Geochronology, Institute of Geology, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This paper discusses successive changes in the evolution of the fluvial system observed throughout the
Received 29 March 2017 Bła˛ dzikowo Formation at the Mrzezino key site in northern Poland. The study focuses on the develop-
Received in revised form ment of fluvial sedimentation during Marine Isotope Stage 7. The sedimentary record of the Pleistocene
23 July 2017
at the study site shows a well-developed sequence that is over 30 m thick. The Bła˛ dzikowo Formation
Accepted 28 September 2017
Available online xxx
shows a quick evolution of the fluvial system from a high-energy sandy braided river, to a meandering
sandy river and, finally, to a low-energy meandering/anastomosing river with significant suspension
settling. This transition is explained as a decrease in flow energy, increase in aggradation ratio and
Keywords:
Meandering river system
expansion of accommodation space during deposition time. A change in the fluvial system has not been
Sea-level rise manifested in the variations of the plant cover. Palynological analysis indicates that climate conditions
Baltic Sea transgression were generally stable, cool and humid (boreal). Sediment transport occurred towards the N-NW, through
IR-OSL dating a valley with a NW-SE axis. Infrared optically stimulated luminescence (IR-OSL) dating shows the
Penultimate interglacial sequence formed from 225.6 ± 17.2 to 210.5 ± 16.6 ka. Well preserved fluvial cycles and 35 m of thickness
suggest the intensive accumulation of the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation with decreasing ratio of lateral erosion.
It suggests an increasing influence of base level rise on evolution of fluvial system, mostly during MIS 7.
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction €rnqvist et al., 2000; Macklin et al., 2002; Vandenberghe, 2003


To
and papers cited therein), as many studies have shown for the
Spatial and temporal changes of the fluvial sedimentation style Russian, Polish and German North Sea and Baltic Sea coastal plains
are immanent features of fluvial systems. Factors that influence it of central and eastern Europe, in the periphery of the Fenno-
have autogenic (i.e. erosion/filling of river valleys, changes in the Scandinavian ice mass centres in the fluvial Pleistocene se-
longitudinal profile of rivers; Lewin and Macklin, 2003; Skelly et al., quences (i.e. Mol, 1997; Starkel, 2002; Vandenberghe, 2002;
2003; Erkens et al., 2009) as well as externally forced reasons:  ski, 2007; Panin et al., 2015; Starkel et al., 2015). Particularly
Zielin
mainly climate changes, changes of base level, tectonic movements the lowermost parts of the fluvial systems, where they interdigitate
or vicinity of (de)glaciation margins of Scandinavian Ice Sheet (SIS) with coastal marine sediments, have great importance for the
(Miall, 1996; Blum and To €rnqvist, 2000; Bridge, 2003; Marks and direct land-sea correlation (Busschers et al., 2007; Hijma et al.,
Pavlovskaya, 2003; Busschers et al., 2007; Allen et al., 2014; 2012).
Peeters et al., 2015). Quaternary fluvial archives have an impor- Fluvial systems are among the most widespread terrestrial
tant recording role in the study of these changes (Fuller et al., 1998; depositional environments. They host diverse deposits, with
coarser grained and fine grained architectural elements, that allow
them to play a major role in the reconstruction of changes in
* Corresponding author. Pleistocene depositional environments based on multidisciplinary
** Corresponding author. studies. Architectural record of river style changes can be found in
E-mail addresses: r.sokolowski@ug.gda.pl (R.J. Sokołowski), ocelj@ug.edu.pl the textural and structural characteristics of fluvial sediments (Mol
(Ł. Janowski), anna.hrynowiecka@pgi.gov.pl (A. Hrynowiecka), anatoli.molodkov@
et al., 2000; Zielin ski and Go zdzik, 2001; Vandenberghe, 2002;
ttu.ee (A. Molodkov).

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
1040-6182/© 2017 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
2 R.J. Sokołowski et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11

Woronko, 2012). Despite their discontinuous record, a semi- the outcrop of a gravel pit in Mrzezino near Puck (Fig. 1). Mrzezino
continuous palaeoenvironmental record can be extracted from key site is located in N Poland, in the south-eastern part of Puck
the fluvial archives (i.e. Starkel, 1991; Vandenberghe, 1995; Kasse Hillock within the Mrzezino II gravel pit (Fig. 2a; 54 390 30.900 N
et al., 2010; Terpiłowski et al., 2014). For these two reasons, the 18 260 11.900 E). The succession of Pleistocene sediments exposed
investigation of remnant river sediments deposited during cold and there is up to 35 m thick. The lowermost unit identified there (U1)
warm periods has an important role in reconstructions of terrestrial contains a silty-sandy fluvial succession of Pleistocene age
palaeoenvironments (Vandenberghe et al., 1994; Blum and (Sokołowski, 2016). A change of the sedimentation style from a
To€rnqvist, 2000; Vandenberghe, 2001; Zielin  ski and Go zdzik, sand-bed braided river to a meandering river was found in the
2001; Vandenberghe and Woo, 2002; Zielin  ski et al., 2016). Most profile with a thickness of approximately 30 m.
authors (especially those working in relative upstream reaches The aims of this paper are to: (i) identify sedimentary environ-
where rivers are smaller and valleys confined) assume that climate ments in vertical and lateral succession; (ii) establish their chro-
change is the main factor responsible for changes in river sedi- nostratigraphic position; (iii) reconstruct the rate and manner
mentation in tectonically stable regions (Mol et al., 2000; Lewis (rapid or gradual) of fluvial sedimentation style changes; (iv) to
et al., 2001). However, the not majorly glaciated phases of Pleisto- identify the main factors that influence the evolution of the
cene glacial cycles were characterized by relatively long periods (of depositional environment at the Mrzezino site.
the order of tens of thousands of years) with fluctuating cool/cold
climatic conditions. Because of inertia of fluvial systems in the 2. Geological setting
middle and downstream reaches of relatively larger river systems,
minor climate swings were usually not recorded in their sediments Study area is located in northern Poland, in coastal part
(Fuller et al., 1998; Busschers et al., 2007; Erkens et al., 2009). (Kashubian Coast) of Gdan  sk-Pomerania region (Fig. 1). This area
Therefore, changes of the fluvial sedimentation style in Pleistocene was covered by all main advances of SIS, which systematically
glacial periods may have had other causes resulting from changes rebuilt the landscape (Lindner et al., 2013). Puck Hillock is part of
in relative sea level/base level or successive filling of valleys. the Kashubian Coast. It is an isolated hillock (erosion remnant),
The Bła˛ dzikowo Formation is a series of Pleistocene fluvial surrounded by valleys formed in the last deglaciation, approx. 15 ka
sediments from the Gdan  sk Pomerania region. According to ago (Mojski, 2005; Wo zniak, 2014). Neogene formations, mostly
Skompski (1997), the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation is a complex of fluvial Miocene coal-bearing sediments, underlying the Pleistocene de-
sandy sediments with intercalations of fine-grained and organic posits, at the depth of 70 to 10 m b.s.l. The thickness of Pleistocene
beds. Based on one TL date from deposits which cover the Bła˛ dzi- deposits ranges from 40 to 130 m (Pikies and Zaleszkiewicz, 2003).
kowo Formation (73 ka) and palynological analysis, Skompski At the Mrzezino site, four main units were identified within the
(1997) correlated the deposits to the Eemian interglacial/early Pleistocene sediments. These units formed as a result of different
Weichselian. The base of the sediments in the Bła˛ dzikowo Forma- depositional processes: fluvial, fluvioglacial and glacial (units U1-
tion reaches 10 m b.s.l. while their top reaches 30e35 m a.s.l. This U4, Sokołowski, 2016). The lowest unit (U1) correlates to the
formation crops out in sites within the Puck Hillock (Ke˛ pa Pucka) Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, identified by Skompski (1997) in the area of
(cf. Skompski, 1997). The Bła˛ dzikowo Formation sediments have Puck Hillock.
been identified in the outcrop of a gravel pit in Mrzezino near Puck This article presents the investigation results from unit U1
(Fig. 1). The succession of Pleistocene sediments exposed there is up whose total thickness reaches 26 m. Detailed lithofacies studies
to 35 m thick. The lowermost unit identified there (U1) contains a were carried out for two profiles located about 150 m apart from
silty-sandy fluvial succession of Pleistocene age (Sokołowski and one another (MRZ-I and MRZ-II, Fig. 1).
Janowski, 2014; Sokołowski, 2016). A change of the sedimentary
environment from a sand-bed braided river to a meandering river 3. Methods
was found in the profile with a thickness of approximately 30 m.
Study area is located ca. 10 km to W from the former extent of Field work included a detailed study of sediments (lithofacies
eemian Baltic Sea (Fig. 2). Marine Pleistocene sediments (estuarine logging, measurements of current elements, sampling for labora-
sand with silt and offshore silt and clay) have known in the tory analyses). Lithofacies logging followed procedures proposed
numerous drilling profiles of the Gdansk Pomerania region to the by Miall (1978, 1996) and its subsequent modifications (Zielin  ski,
south-east from study area (Makowska, 1986; Marks et al., 2014). 1998a). Laboratory work on samples included: (i) grain-size ana-
The altitude of the top of marine sediments identified as Emian lyses (using sieving and laser methods) and calculation of grain size
series is between 28 m b.s.l. up to 1,4 m a.s.l. (E complex in tab. 3, parameters (cf. Folk and Ward, 1957), (ii) pollen analysis, (iii)
Makowska, 2009). They are accompanied by a series of Pleistocene infrared optically stimulated luminescence (IR-OSL) datings.
river sediments that had their estuaries in the southern part of Nine samples were collected for palynological analysis: four
Gdansk Pomerania during the Eemian (Marks, 2005; Makowska, from the MRZ-I profile (one sample was empty) and five from the
2009). The maximum sea level rise during the last interglacial MRZ-II profile. 5 cm3 of material from each sample were processed.
was þ6 to þ8.5 m higher than at present (Dutton et al., 2015; Long Typically, it was fine- and medium-grained sand containing some
et al., 2015). organic matter. Preparation for laboratory analysis proceeded ac-
Assuming this age of the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation and comparing cording to standards set by Erdtman (1960) and Berglund and
it with the palaeogeography of the study area, it can be observed Ralska-Jasiewiczowa (1986). The density of pollen was deter-
that a bay of the Eemian sea existed in close proximity of studied mined by adding one tablet of Lycopodium per sample. The method
formation (Fig. 2). In addition, Skompski (1997) established that the used by the authors differed from the standards above in that a
rivers flowed to the NW, i.e. in the opposite direction in relation to smaller number of pollen grains per sample was counted than it is
the position of the bay of the Eemian sea. Moreover, the top of this generally accepted. Due to their low frequency, there were from 29
formation is located ca. 35 m above present day sea level. Such a to 106 pollen grains (AP þ NAP) per sample in all the three glass
situation is unlikely. Hence, a need arose to verify the existing views slides (20  20 mm). Palynological diagrams were drawn based on
on the age and origins of the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation because of their POLPAL software (Nalepka and Walanus, 2003).
palaeogeographic significance. Potassium feldspar-based IR-OSL dating was carried out at the
The Bła˛ dzikowo Formation sediments have been identified in Research Laboratory for Quaternary Geochronology (RLQG) at the

Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
R.J. Sokołowski et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11 3

 ski
Fig. 1. a e location sketch of the Mrzezino site with the study profiles; b e description of the study profiles. Modified lithofacies code according to Miall (1978, 1996) and Zielin
(1998a). c e profile MRZ-I; d - profile MRZ-II; e e a general view of MRZ-I profile; f e a general view of MRZ-II profile.

Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
4 R.J. Sokołowski et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11

Fig. 2. Location of the Bła˛ dzikowo formation exposures and southern limit of Eemian Sea (after Makowska, 1986, 2009; Funder et al., 2002; Marks, 2005; modified).

Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia (Molodkov and Bitinas, 4.1. Subunit U1a
2006). For typical samples from Polish-German formations, the
upper limit of the method is expected to be 300e500 ka, depending The subunit U1a is at least 8 m thick. Sands with large-scale
on the burial conditions and the physical properties of the mineral planar cross-stratification predominate in the basal part of this
used for luminescence analysis. The reliability of the dating tech- subunit (Fig. 3a and b). Towards the top, they change into sands
nique used in the present study is proved by a number of with medium scale trough-cross stratification. Laminae and small
comparative results obtained using both the numerical dating clasts of organic matter occur inside all lithofacies (Fig. 3a). Two
methods (K-feldspar-based IR-OSL, mollusc shell-based electron samples of organic matter were obtained for pollen analysis.
spin resonance (ESR), quartz-based optically-stimulated afterglow Palaeocurrent analysis indicate flows to the N with a deviation to
(OSA), UeTh, 14C) applied to the same sedimentary samples, and the NW (Fig. 1c).
relative ones (Molodkov, 2012). A remarkable consistency between
the IR-OSL, OSA, ESR, UeTh and 14C dating results obtained on K-
feldspar, quartz grains and mollusc shells taken from the same 4.2. Subunit U1b
enclosing sediments, confirms the accuracy and validity of the re-
sults reported in this paper. The sediments of subunit U1b in profile MRZ-I are separated
from subunit U1a by clear erosive contact in many places (Fig. 3b).
The vertical succession and horizontal variability of lithofacies of
4. Description of sedimentary succession subunit U1b made it possible to recognise a number of sedimentary
cycles, mostly of the fining-upward (FU) type (Figs. 1 and 3d). The
Archival drillings and Skompski's research (1997) in the neigh- basal boundary of each cycle is mostly erosional. Above the basal
bouring of the Mrzezino site show the base of the Bła˛ dzikowo boundary, there are fine and medium sands with trough cross-
formation to locally occur at the shallow depth of approx. 28 m b.s.l. bedding stratification (St) of medium and large scale. Occasionally
This would mean that the whole succession reaches a thickness of large clay intraclasts are found in the cross-bedded strata (Fig. 3e).
approximately 40e50 m. Contact with the units lying above is The top of the FU cycles is formed by fine-to medium-grained sands
erosional and deformational. Si with a thickness of 2.5 m. Laminae are arranged parallel to each
In view of the lithofacies differences within unit U1, two sub- other and are inclined at an angle of 10e20 . Within the fine-to
units have been distinguished: U1a (lower) and U1b (upper, Fig. 1c medium-grained sands, there are small ripples, often enriched
and d). Their total thickness visible in the profiles is at least 26 m. with plant detritus that was subjected to pollen analysis. Ripples

Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
R.J. Sokołowski et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11 5

Fig. 3. MRZ-I profile: a e subunit U1a, record of migrating transverse bar. Black arrows indicate organic matter clasts; b e upper part of subunit U1a cut erosionally by subunit U1b
sediments (bed filling). Black arrow indicates streaks of organic matter, white arrowe erosional boundary between subunits. MRZ-II profile: c e filling of a deep erosional cut
(lithofacies St) with a sedimentary transition to subunit U1b (lithofacies Sr); d epoint bar sands (lithofacies Si, lower part) with reactivation surfaces (black arrow) dissected by
overflow channel, covered by floodplain deposits (lithofacies Fm) and expanding crevasse splay (lithofacies St); e e erosion contact of the top part of point bar (Sr(c)) and bottom
part of another point bar with a large clay intraclast (black arrow); f e transition from the bottom (Si) to the top (Sr) part of point bar, covered by fine-grained floodplain and river
levee sediments; g efloodplain and river levee sediments covered by the lower part of point bar; h e deposits deformed by gravity flow of the upper part of point bar.

frequently climb parallelly or diagonally to the slope of the lateral units as infills of troughs several dozen cm thick and 3e4 m wide.
accretion form. Individual laminae packages are separated by Ripple lithofacies transit into silts with climbing ripple lamination
reactivation surfaces (Fig. 3d). Si facies fill asymmetric palae- (SFr (c); Fig. 3f) and wavy lamination (Fw). Most of the cycles end
ochannels several meters deep and at least 50e70 m wide. Si facies with silty clay sediments with horizontal lamination or massive
transits gradually upwards into silty sands with ripple lamination. structure. Sandy lenses, 20e40 cm thick and 2e4 m wide, some-
Sometimes Sp or St lithofacies occur in the central part of the Si times occur within them. Sediments in these lenses have mostly

Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
6 R.J. Sokołowski et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11

cross-bedding or low-angle lamination (Fig. 3g) and represent 5. Pollen analysis


sedimentary cycles of the coarsening-upward (CU) type. Some
upper parts of the cycles are eroded or deformed in the form of 5.1. MRZ-I profile
gravitational landslides (Fig. 3h).
The measurements of palaeocurrent orientation in the sedi- Samples for pollen analysis were collected from both types of
ments of subunit U1b show considerable variation. The western subfacies, channel zone (St, Sp) and floodplain deposits (Sr and
orientation with a deviation to the SW is prevalent. The southern FSr(c); Fig. 1c and d). The frequency of pollen was very low. Woody
orientation predominates in the top part (Fig. 1c and d). These plant (arboreal plants, AP) sporomorphs occur in proportions
differences are mainly visible within the particular sedimentary indicating the lack of a forest cover (50% and less; Iversen, 1954,
cycles between Si lithofacies and the overlying Sr lithofacies, and Fig. 4). Damaged (crumpled) and redeposited elements: Dinophy-
they can reach an angle of 90 . ceae cysts, redeposited sporomorphs, both of Tertiary and Pleisto-
cene origin, occur in significant quantities, which indicates that
they were transported by water and originated from and under
unstable environment. Indicator taxa of trees are also considerably
4.3. IR-OSL dating results
damaged, especially Alnus which, unfortunately, could not be
distinguished from Alnus glutinosa and Alnus viridis. The climatic
Four IR-OSL dates between 208.7 ± 15.7 and 307.2 ± 24.2 ka have
conditions that prevailed at the time of deposition of the described
been obtained from sediments of subunit U1b (Fig. 1, Table 1). This
sediments were similar to those occurring in the modern park
allows us to conclude that the deposition of the dated sediments
tundra with dwarf-shrub and mosses typical of the period after the
most likely took place successively during MIS 7 and perhaps MIS 9
last ice age ended (Ralska-Jasiewiczowa et al., 2004). This is indi-
(the lowermost part of profile MRZ-II). Chronological succession of
cated by the preserved Betula nana pollen and many spores of
the luminescence ages from about 226 ka to 209 ka may suggest the
Musci and Calluna vulgaris, Bruckenthalia spikulifolia, Lycopodium
continuity of sedimentation processes without a major strati-
annotinum, Koenigia islandica and other numerous and widely
graphic gap. True, an older date, 307.2 ± 24.2 ka (Table 1), from the
represented taxa of herbaceous plants preferring a humid envi-
bottom of the subunit U1b of MRZ-II profile seems overestimated.
ronment. An important role in the landscape of this area was played
Most likely, according to analytical data, this date is due to
by steppe-like communities (especially in sample MRZ-I-PAL-01,
uncomplete bleaching of the mineral grains occurred prior to
Fig. 1b) with a significant proportion of pollen Poaceae, Artemisia,
deposition rather than an indication of older (MIS 9) age of the
Helianthemum nummularium, Cichorioideae et al. Such a large
sediments. It is evident that the problem of the age of the lower
percentage of pollen from dry area plants may indicate a relatively
part of unit U1 requires further studies, and this work is in progress.

Table 1
Results of IR-OSL dating.

Depth (m b.t.l.) Lab. No. U (ppm) Th (ppm) K (%) P (Gy) Water (%) Dsed (mGy/ka) Dc (mGy/ka) Age (ka)

1.2 RLQG 2301-094 0.33 1.81 0.93 418.3 0.80 1.12 0.16 208.7 ± 15.7
13.0 RLQG 2340-035 0.45 1.21 0.96 402.7 0.91 1.12 0.16 210.5 ± 16.6
15.8 RLQG 2341-035 0.85 2.03 0.96 460.6 1.75 1.27 0.11 225.6 ± 17.2
21.7 RLQG 2342-035 0.34 0.93 1.06 592.2 1.38 1.17 0.08 307.2 ± 24.2

Fig. 4. Pollen diagram of the MRZ-I and MRZ-II profiles.

Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
R.J. Sokołowski et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11 7

continental climate (Magyari et al., 2014). A small number of pollen depositional forms (sand bars, megaripples, ripples) is character-
grains of trees, mainly Pinus sylvestris and Betula alba, probably istic of compound transverse bars (Miall, 1996; Bridge, 2003;
originate from clusters/clumps of trees scattered in the area, Ashworth et al., 2011). Taking into account the thickness of the
possibly comprising Juniperus, and Hippopha€ e rhamnoides as well. entire succession of about 1.5 m, it can be assumed that the channel
However, a vast majority of tree pollen originates from long- flow was twice as deep, i.e. about 3 m (Zielin  ski, 1992).
distance transport. The bank of the flow basin in which the Results of palaeocurrent measurements indicate that transport
described sediment formed was probably waterlogged and peaty, in this region occurred towards the N-NW, matching the probable
as indicated by the Sphagnum spores. Communities with Alnus, axis of the valley as well (NW-SE). Subunit U1a (St, Sp) can be
probably viridis, Salix glauca, and rushes with Cyperaceae and interpreted as the riverbed sediments of relatively a deep sand-bed
Ranunculus acris also grew on the banks of the river creating ri- braided river with a predominance of transverse bars (Cant and
parian communities. Walker, 1978; Miall, 1978, 1996; Jones et al., 2001; Weckwerth,
2011). The lack of fine-grained sediments (typical of overbank
5.2. MRZ-II profile zones) indicates the predominance of sandy sedimentation, trans-
ported mainly in the bedload. The channel sedimentation style can
Five samples from the MRZ-II profile have been subjected to be compared to the present-day South Saskatchewan River sensu
palynological analyses (Fig. 4). Four samples were taken from Cant and Walker (1978) and Schuurman and Kleinhans (2015).
floodplain deposits (Sr, Sr(c)), and one sample was obtained from Subunit U1b sediments can be interpreted as deposited in a
the lower part of a point bar unit (Fig. 1c). Pollen frequency was also fluvial environment with a well-developed, separated channel and
very low. Similarly to samples from the MRZ-I profile, the propor- floodplain zones. The channel zone is represented by sand and silty
tion of woody plant (AP) sporomorphs indicate a deforested area sand cycles with a clear fining and thinning upwards. The thickness
(approx. 50%; Iversen, 1954) while a large number of destroyed and of these cycles reaches 3 m. The succession of lithofacies
redeposited sporomorphs indicates intensified solifluction pro- (St⇨Si⇨Sr⇨SFr(c)⇨Fh) in cycles as well as a high variability of
cesses (Fig. 4). However, unlike the sediment described above, the palaeocurrent directions are considered to be characteristic of a
MRZ-II profile represents a basin resembling a lake, perhaps an point bar formed in a sand-bed meandering river (Miall, 1996;
isolated still water pool. It was probably a shallow (less than 1 m  ski, 1998a; Ghazi and Mountney, 2009; Ielpi and Ghinassi,
Zielin
deep) seasonal, wide lake on the floodplain. The lack of remains of 2014). Si⇨Sr lithofacies sets (Fig. 3d) represent the central parts of
aquatic plants, perhaps caused by frequent floods, does not allow a point bars. Si lithofacies constitute the core part of the point bar
reliable estimation of the size and depth of the lake. This is evi- during high water level. The upper parts of the point bar (St and Sr
denced by colonies of Botryococcus and Pediastrum algae. There was facies) formed as a result of the rise and fall of a large flood (Hickin
no pollen of aquatic plants (as in the MRZ-I), which may confirm and Nanson, 1975). Silty clay lithofacies (partially with synsedi-
the thesis of unfavourable conditions for their development. The mentary deformation) with scattered plant detritus occurring in
bottom of the reservoir was unstable for aquatic and shore plants the middle of the subunit may indicate a transition to the envi-
due to continuous or frequent deliveries of mineral material. The ronment of a fine-grained meandering river, close to the modern
vegetation in the lake and its surroundings was so poor that a very Narew River in its middle reaches (Gradzin  ski et al., 2003).
small amount of organic matter remains in the sediment. A single The deposition of thick packages of climbing ripples with
layer of organic matter could arise even within a single inflow of common organic detritus indicates a considerable role of flow
matter from the catchment. The source of this inflow shore of the separation zones in the distal parts of meanders (Taylor et al., 1971).
reservoir could also be peaty bog (Sphagnum) and waterlogged bog Taking into account the relatively large thickness of Sr(c) lithofacies,
in the immediate surroundings of the river valley. The valley edge: in comparison with floodplain sediments, together with the pre-
it was a habitat where riparian communities with Alnus (probably dominance of the silt over the sand fraction, as well as the
viridis) and Salix glauca and sedge-reed with Cyperaceae and perpendicular or almost opposite directions of sediment transport
Ranunculus acris could develop. The surrounding landscape looked in relation to the thalweg flow, these sediments can be regarded as
like a mosaic of dwarf-shrub and moss tundra with Betula nana, counter point bar deposits (CPBD; Smith, 1987; Smith et al., 2009).
Salix herbacea, Calluna vulgaris, Bupleurum, with numerous Musci CPBD are considered to be indicative of highly sinuous meandering
and varied herbaceous vegetation. It was interspersed with patches rivers in valleys with erosion-resistant banks or in low-gradient
of steppe-like grasslands with the predominance of Poaceae, Arte- near-coastal environments (Makaske and Weerts, 2005).
misia, Helianthemum nummularium, Aster, etc. Coexisting Sr, Sr(c) lithofacies represent levees while the Sp, St
Only individual pollen specimens of Pinus sylvestris and Betula (Sh) lithofacies separating them are fillings of small crevasses and
alba trees and the accompanying Juniperus were encountered. crevasse splays (Fig. 3g; Miall, 1996; Brodzikowski et al., 1997;
Bristow et al., 1999). They form a transition zone to the floodplain
6. Interpretation of sedimentary environments and, according to Brierley (1996), can be classified as channel-
marginal elements. They form distinct facies of heterolithic grain
Sp lithofacies, sometimes with sigmoidal laminae geometry, size, small thickness of beds inclined at 15e20 and often
predominate in the lower subunit (U1a). They represent foresets of coarsening-up (Fig. 1d). Levee sediments pass gradationally into
transverse bars. They migrated down the channel in the lower flow finer floodplain sediments. The relatively small amount of sedi-
regime, creating mid-channel bars (Hjellbakk, 1997; Zielin  ski, ments of crevasse splays, in comparison to the levees, as well as the
1998b). Lithofacies of the St type formed primarily in the thalweg good preservation of levee deposits suggest that the valley was
zone as a result of the migration of three-dimensional megaripples relatively broad and the meander belt could develop freely
in high-energy conditions of turbulent flows (Nemec, 1984; (Ferguson and Brierley, 1999). This interpretation is confirmed by
Ashworth et al., 2011). The moderately and well-sorted sandy the almost completely preserved cycles of point bars (Fig. 3d).
sediments indicate the frequent redeposition and long-distance Deposits from the floodplain zone are represented mainly by
transport of material in the river channel. laminated silt and clay enriched with plant detritus interbedded
The Sp⇨St⇨Sr succession (Fig. 3a) was formed by the over- with thin (a few centimetres), fine and silty sands. Silty-sandy in-
lapping of sand bars and migration of sinuous megaripples and terbeds were formed during maximum flood flows as a result of
then the ripples across their surface. Such a succession of overlapping with levee facies and distal parts of crevasse splays

Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
8 R.J. Sokołowski et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11

(Bridge, 2003). A more fine-grained lithofacies (Fh, Fm) were ended ca. 245 ka ago (Railsback et al., 2015). The potential presence
forming as a result of the settling of fine grains during flow stag- and extent of the SIS during MIS 8 is significant for determining the
nation. The thickness of the fine-grained lithofacies (Fh, Fm), up to amplitude and time of decay of the glacial forebulge on its mar-
40 cm, was a result of repeated frequent flood episodes reaching ginal zone. The SIS advance during this period was found in Nor-
the distal part of the floodplain (Zwolin  ski, 1992). way (Olsen et al., 2013). However, the scale of the cooling, reflected
The dispersed plant detritus and even wood fragments (espe- in marine sediment cores, does not indicate the extent of the SIS
cially in the upper part of the profile) attest to the presence of the comparable to that from the end MIS 6 and MIS 2 (Lisiecki and
vegetation cover in the valley and its vicinity. Lateral channel Raymo, 2005; Toucanne et al., 2009). Glacial sediments from MIS
migration is manifested in the occurrence of numerous fine- 8 were not recorded on the territory of Germany (Eissmann, 2002),
grained intraclasts. The amount of clay clasts clearly decreases to- but the till (Trelde Till) of this age is noted in Denmark and prob-
wards the top of the profiles, which presumably results from the ably terminated south of the Danish-German borderland
decreasing rate of lateral migration of meanders and higher cohe- (Houmark-Nielsen, 2004). In Polish territory, the Krznanian glaci-
sion of increasingly finer deposits building the banks. It suggests a ation was dated at MIS 8. The extent of that glaciation was deter-
slow however permanent aggradation in the lower reach of the mined only in eastern Poland (Lindner et al., 2013). Successions of
river system with a wide valley gradually filled by sediments. that glaciation with a well-defined stratigraphic position are
Sedimentological analysis does not give intrinsic evidence about missing. Therefore, the SIS presence on the territory of Poland
whether unit U1 was deposited during one climate cycle (inter- should be regarded as hypothetical in this case. This is reflected in
glacial or at least interstadial). Nevertheless, a gradual transition the recent publication by Marks et al. (2016) where the SIS advance
from a braided system (subunit U1a) into a meandering system during MIS 8 is not taken into account at all. The glaciation during
(subunit U1b) visible in the MRZ-II profile as suggest continuity of MIS 8 ended about 20 ka before the deposition of the Bła˛ dzikowo
the depositional processes. Formation began. According to Fjeldskaar (1994) and Fjeldskaar
et al. (2000), the forebulge crest was 60 m in compare to a geoid
7. Causes of the evolution of the fluvial system at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum at about 15 ka, and
decreased to 40 m later, ca. 11 ka. What is also significant is that the
Given the vicinity of the site to the (former) Baltic Sea, for the zero uplift isoline in Fennoscandia was relatively stationary over
style transition in our succession the question is: was it due to base time and that the forebulge collapsed smoothly without any
level change, climate change, or both of them? Analysis of the migration. Zero uplift line was located in northern Poland, close to
sediments of the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation at the Mrzezino site proves the Mrzezino site and of the Bła˛ dzikowo formation area
that the fluvial system evolved from a relatively high-energy sand- (Uscinowicz, 2003; Lambeck et al., 2010). These ideas on magni-
bed braided river to a meandering sandy river and, finally, to a low- tude of forebulge are in agreement with relative sea-level data
energy meandering river with the predominant sedimentation of along the Baltic Sea and with geophysical understanding of crust-
suspended sediments. This indicates a successive decrease in the rheology and ice-mass distributions (Steffen and Wu, 2011). The
energy of flow. Fully preserved profiles of point bars and floodplain forebulge crest was located approximately 100 km away from the
zone show increase of the effective aggradation ratio in the valley. former ice front. The glacio-isostatic relaxation after the advance of
Stacking and preservation of the sequence (35 m of thickness) the SIS advance during MIS 8 took the same time as that of MIS 2
suggest that main role could have played a rise of the base level (of the order of several thousands of years; cf. Uscinowicz, 2003).
and/or tectonic subsidence. Palynological analysis present rather Nevertheless, the forebulge crest was located slightly more to
stable, but cool and humid climate. Therefore climate changes north than where it was in MIS-2 because of smaller extent of SIS
rather have not influenced on river system. In the Pleistocene, during MIS 8 (Houmark-Nielsen, 2004). This means that just a few
fining-upward fluvial successions formed primarily during inter- thousand years after the deglaciation, the study area did not show
glacial periods. Successions of this type, within the extent of the appreciable vertical movements that could have impacted the
Scandinavian Ice Sheet (SIS), are known, for example, in western depositional processes in valley systems. In this case, a significant
Europe or Poland, both for the Eemian interglacial (Peeters et al., role of tectonics in sedimentation fluvial processes should hardly
2016 and the studies cited therein) as well as the late Weichse- be ruled out, especially in comparison with the Central Graben
lian/early Holocene (Vandenberghe et al., 1994; Huisink, 2000; region in the Netherlands where the processes of tectonic subsi-
Hijma and Cohen, 2011). The evolution of the Warta River in dence of the sedimentary basin played some role in the deposition
Poland during the late glacial to early Holocene resulted in the of fluvial series (Houtgast et al., 2002; Cohen et al., 2005; Hijma
transition from an aggrading braided river system to an erosional et al., 2012).
(in the first phase) meandering river system. In the case of the Palynological analysis results indicate that stable, cool (but
Warta River, the transition to the meandering system resulted in relatively humid) climatic conditions prevailed during the deposi-
vertical erosion (downcutting) and development of valley terraces. tion period of the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation (unit U1). They were
It resulted from the development of the vegetation cover and conducive to the development of the dwarf-shrub and moss tundra
decreased supply of sediments to the channel (Kozarski, 1983; type of vegetation along with herbaceous vegetation (Fig. 4).
Vandenberghe et al., 1994; Kozarski and Nowaczyk, 1995). It was Related (interstadial) climatic conditions have been reported in the
a near-field of glacio-isostasy system without the direct influence of Folwark profile from the Widawka lobe area where the climatic
the sea level change. The evolution of the fluvial system of the optimum indicates a boreal climate, preceded by tundra conditions
Lower Rhine in the Netherlands was characterized by consistent similar to those that prevailed in the study area (Balwierz and
aggradation, which was caused mainly by the rapidly-increasing Go zdzik, 2000). The presence of rushes suggests that the banks
level of the nearby sea and tectonic subsidence (Cohen et al., were stable while basins with peat sedimentation could form on
2002; Busschers et al., 2007; Peeters et al., 2015). the floodplain. However, there is a lack of periglacial structures and
The potential presence of SIS before the deposition of the hence no positive indication for the existence of permafrost typical
Bła˛ dzikowo Formation and its impact on the development of this of the tundra zone. However, periglacial structures (ice-wedge
formation is debatable. The last potential SIS advance (MIS 8, pseudomorphs and cryoturbations) were reported from the
referred to as the Krznanian glaciation in Poland; Lindner and Bła˛ dzikowo Cliff section (Skompski, 1997). This coincides with the
Marks, 1999) before the deposition of the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation important role of fine-grained sediments that formed stable

Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
R.J. Sokołowski et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2017) 1e11 9

channel banks. The presence of the vegetation cover, especially 8. Conclusions


peatlands, on the floodplain, favoured the retention of water and
reduced the amplitude of annual discharges. Plants also reinforced The present study verifies some aspects of the current views on
the river banks and hindered lateral erosion (Vandenberghe and the age and origins of the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation and present a new
Woo, 2002). The stable, cool and relatively humid climate prob- interpretation concerning these issues. The sedimentary succession
ably was not the main reason for the evolution of the fluvial system exposed at the Mrzezino site is a record of the evolution of the
although it was conducive to the development of the vegetation fluvial environment over MIS 8 (Termination III). Based on the in-
cover on floodplain. On the other hand, the development of the vestigations, several conclusions can be drawn:
vegetation cover on the floodplain and by implication also the
hillslopes upstream caused a reduction of the material supplied to  Unit U1 deposits can be correlated with the Bła˛ dzikowo For-
the channel, stabilization of the banks and decrease of flood crests. mation sensu Skompski (1997). Their succession shows the
All these factors concurred to the evolution of the fluvial system evolution of the fluvial system from a sand-bed braided deep
from braided to meandering. perennial river to a sand-bed meandering river to, finally, a fine-
Based on the dating results and reconstruction of the vegetation grained meandering river.
cover, it can be assumed that the mentioned part of unit U1 sedi-  The results of IR-OSL dating indicates that the analysed deposits
ments was deposited sometime between ca 226 and 209 ka or are much older than previously assumed. Their deposition is
slightly beyond this time interval, i.e. most likely during substages confidently dated at MIS 7.
7d-7c, mainly interglacial MIS 7 (Lisiecki and Raymo, 2005; Gibbard  Palynological analysis suggests that during the deposition of the
and Cohen, 2008; Railsback et al., 2015). This means that the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, a relatively humid, cool climate pre-
Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, which includes unit U1 deposits, is older vailed. Presumably, this was one of the early stages of a climate
than previously assumed (Skompski, 1997). During MIS 7d, there warming during MIS 7.
was a significant and rapid rise in sea level (Termination III), from  The thickness, stacked nature and preservation of fluvial cycles
80 m to 18 m below the present sea level (Dutton et al., 2009). If this might be attributed to a rapid and significant rise of the base
eustatic sea-level rise affected the Baltic Sea of the time too, it can level during MIS 7c.
explain a considerable part of the thickness of 35 m and the fact  Evolution of the river system showing a decrease in the energy
that the bottom of the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation sediments is below of the river, increase in the accommodation space and increase
the present sea level. The relatively cool flora suggests that the in sediment aggradation in the middle section of the profile. At
Bła˛ dzikowo Formation sediments contain mainly a record of the the end of the analysed sedimentation, the role of lateral erosion
older part of the MIS 7d because at the end of it (MIS 7c) at least increased, which was a response to the use of the accommo-
interstadial climatic conditions prevailed and a rapid expansion of dation space by the river.
forest communities occurred (Bintanja et al., 2005; Desprat et al.,  The change of the river style might be explained as an effect of
2007). The climatic conditions at that time were probably similar development of floodplain vegetation. It was enhanced by
to those of the boundary of the late glacial/early Holocene when lowered gradient in the vicinity of the sea (backwater effect).
boreal forests and tundra residues prevailed (Kasse et al., 2010;
Apolinarska et al., 2012) or to those of the middle pleniglacial, Acknowledgments
with only sporadic or discontinuous permafrost (Vandenberghe,
1992). We are very grateful to Polgravel company for the help provided
The rise of the base level caused a flattening of the longitudinal during the fieldwork. We also wish to thank two anonymous re-
profile of river systems and a decrease in their flow energy. Inde- viewers for invaluable comments which have enabled the authors
pendently of the base level rise, improvement of the climate to upgrade this manuscript.
occurred and this resulted in the observed development of vege-
tation and decrease in sediment supply. The transformation of
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Please cite this article in press as: Sokołowski, R.J., et al., Evolution of fluvial system during the Pleistocene warm stage (Marine Isotope Stage 7)
e A case study from the Bła˛ dzikowo Formation, N Poland, Quaternary International (2017), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.09.042
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