Russia and Britain are closer to each other than you might think

Россия и Британия
© Форпост Северо-Запад

Scientists in both countries have come to the same conclusion: the United Kingdom and the Leningrad region 400 million years ago were a single unit, that is, there were no Scandinavia or seas between them. This is evidenced by red sandstones - both in Scotland and near the Luga they are identical not only in appearance but also in many of their characteristics.

The Devonian period began about 420 million years ago. By that time, after the great extinction of marine life that occurred at the beginning of the Silurian, many new ecosystems had appeared on Earth and several supercontinents were completing their formation. One of them is Lavrussia (Euramerica), resulting from the merger of the North American and East European lithospheric plates.

карта девон
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Much of northwestern Lavrussia was occupied by a warm, shallow tropical sea, at the margins of which, between 390 and 360 million years ago, those red sedimentary rocks were formed. You can see them in the Leningrad and Pskov regions, the Baltics, Belarus... But, most interestingly, exactly the same landscapes are found in Devonshire, in the south of England, and Scotland.

“The sandstones in the United Kingdom and near St. Petersburg are identical in many respects. For example, in their mineral composition, which includes quartz, feldspar, mica, and iron oxides and hydroxides that give them their characteristic color. Besides, the fossils found in these sediments were formed during the same era and under the same conditions. These are shallow marine fauna that lived in saltwater,” says Irina Talovina, head of the Department of Historical and Dynamic Geology at St. Petersburg Mining University.

красный песчаник
© красные песчаники Шотландии, поздний девон, John Marshall, UK

How did it happen that geographical neighbors are now about two thousand miles apart, and the Scandinavian Peninsula wedged in between them? That’s easy. 250 million years after its origin, Laurussia split, and its western part gradually began to move away from the eastern part. Unlike Iceland and Greenland, whose territories were also near what is now the Leningrad region and now lie within the North American Platform, the British Isles did not travel as far. Despite the English Channel separating them from the rest of Europe, from the point of view of structural geology, they are an integral whole of it.

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Earth has already gone through several cycles of new seas and oceans originating, which are pushing apart the lithospheric plates and contributing to the emergence of new continents. This process continues to this day. Let’s suppose, for example, that a fissure hundreds of kilometers long is slowly growing in Africa, which will inevitably split it into two parts. This will lead to the formation of a new stable section of the Indian Ocean crust, which will include the territory of today’s Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and the island of Madagascar. And a gulf will form between it and the rest of Africa. But it will happen, of course, not tomorrow, but in millions of years,” explains Irina Talovina.

Scientific research on the so-called drift of the continents, conducted for a long time, allowed scientists to make an approximate geographical map of Earth in relation to each geological period. The statement about the correlation of Devonian deposits of European Russia and their British analogs is also not new. The first such hypothesis was expressed back in 1884 by Pavel Venyukov. And in the 1930s, paleontologist Dmitry Obruchev, son of the world-famous geologist Vladimir Obruchev, proved it by comparing different layers of Scottish, Baltic, and the Luga basin sandstones with fauna. They contained identical species of fossils of invertebrates and fish, which confirmed Venyukov’s assumption.

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On the photo: red-colored Devonian sandstone (from the collection of the Mountain Museum).

Scientists of St. Petersburg State Mining University and their British colleagues John Marshall and David Seaveter have brought a fresh stream into the research of the Main Devonian field as the geological system on the territory of Western Russian regions, the Baltic states, and Belarus which was formed hundreds of millions of years ago. They studied the bluffs found on the shores of Lake Ilmen and recognized them as the most important geological objects, which allow not only a more detailed analysis of the migration of continents but also to engage in the reconstruction of paleoclimate.

“Indeed, the area of Devonian and other Paleozoic rocks in northwest Russia can be considered as a reference for reconstruction of paleoclimates. As it is known, many species of animals and plants can exist only in a narrow range of climatic conditions, respectively, according to the area of their distribution scientists can understand what temperatures or humidity were typical for this region during this or that historical period. And what events led to a change in the existing conjuncture. Obviously, without understanding the patterns of climate variability in the past, it is impossible to predict its characteristics in the future. In this context deposits of the Main Devonian field are of enormous scientific value,” says Elena Mikhailova, Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences, Professor of Mining University.

Lately we hear a lot of speculations about climate change. Western society has already formed a stable opinion that the reason for this process is the anthropogenic impact, i.e. man's activity destructive for the nature. The consequence will be an inevitable catastrophe on a global scale..

Новый Орлеан

In reality, however, this is only a hypothesis, elevated to the rank of axiom by bias or prejudice. No reliable scientific studies are confirming that the transformations taking place in the atmosphere can be irreversible. This harsh winter is further proof that global warming may be a bit of a stretch since the flora and oceans of the world are perfectly capable of absorbing the amount of carbon dioxide that is currently being released into the environment. They just need a little help to reduce their emissions, rather than building a new energy industry from scratch, which would require huge investments and would inevitably lead to lower living standards in developing countries.

Read more about the potential of the Main Devonian Field in the scientific article THE LAKE IL'MEN CLINT, RUSSIA: A POTENTIAL DEVONIAN GEOPARK

The reconstruction of the paleoclimate will provide an accurate answer to the question of whether the increase in global air temperature is the beginning of a long-term trend or we are talking about a temporary phenomenon. Data for it can be collected not only by studying the Devonian field, but also, for example, by studying ice cores obtained by drilling deep wells in Antarctica. This work will scientifically substantiate or refute the view of the global climate threat hanging over our civilization. Otherwise, most nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America will simply not be motivated to make significant changes in the structure of their fuel and energy complexes or to adopt technologies that minimize negative impacts on ecosystems