Deadly oasis: Recurrent annihilation of Cretaceous desert bryophyte colonies; the role of solar, climate and lithospheric forcing

Juan Pedro Rodríguez-López, Eduardo Barrón, Daniel Peyrot, Gary B. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Many oases (wet interdunes) are sedimentary systems characterized by high-frequency water-level oscillations, marked changes in salinity and intense biological activity at their margins. They are considered to be one of the most challenging environments on Earth for ecosystem development. These dynamic, depositional settings are usually unfavourable for fossilization and subsequent preservation of vegetal remains. This paper describes bryophyte (liverwort) assemblages occurring in three successive horizons interpreted to represent (i) recurrent early successional phases of biological soil crust colonization of wet interdune margins or (ii) exceptional preservation of floating or riparian liverworts in oasis pond waters associated with a progressive fall of the interdune water level. The record of in situ colonization surfaces characterized by delicate (e.g. lignin-free) three-dimensional structures represents an exceptional type of preservation herein associated with a rapid variation in phreatic interdune water level and the subsequent establishment of anoxic and reducing conditions. The occurrence of exceptionally preserved liverwort colonies coincides with the sedimentary record of, at least, three seismite levels in the oasis. Data gathered from the site suggests that the water table of the oasis was controlled by a combination of (i) a positive creation of accommodation space due to subsidence associated with movement on syn-sedimentary extensional faults, and (ii) the rise and fall of the oasis water table controlled by the oscillations of the groundwater system due to orbital changes which appear to drive the variability of the climate system. Rising groundwater levels flooded the oasis soil crusts and lead to the exceptional recurrent preservation of liverwort colonies at the oasis margins. Alternatively, considering the hypothesis of floating or riparian liverworts in the oasis pond waters, the fall in the level of the oasis water table placed the floating liverworts in contact with the oasis bottom sediments. This fall in the level of the oasis water table could indicate a cessation of accommodation space by syn-sedimentary extensional faults and/or a regional lowering of the groundwater system level associated with drought periods. Preliminary results indicate that oasis lamination between liverwort colonies records decadal and sub-decadal cyclicity, related with 11-year Schwabe sunspot and sub-decadal NAO cyclicities, conferring for every sedimentary cycle between liverwort colonies a duration of approximately 200 years, that otherwise matches the expected recurrence period for the De Vries cycle of solar activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalGeoscience Frontiers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Deadly oasis: Recurrent annihilation of Cretaceous desert bryophyte colonies; the role of solar, climate and lithospheric forcing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this