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Submerged Landscapes

Sea level is known to have fluctuated by more than 100 metres over repeated glacial cycles, resulting in recurring exposure, inundation and migration of coastlines not only across Europe but worldwide. Landscape response to these changes in sea level, and the preservation of these features on continental shelves around Europe, are an invaluable resource for improving our understanding of human history and environmental change over geological time, whilst also providing data for potential use in examining future sea-level rise scenarios.

Recent advances in both data acquisition and availability over the last two decades has enabled researchers to more accurately reconstruct the extent and dynamics of fluctuating palaeocoastlines. High-resolution multibeam bathymetry and sub-bottom seismic data, in particular, have resulted in a step change in our understanding of palaeoshorelines and other traces of the original landscape topography and sediments. With preservation of these now submerged features under threat from commercial activities and natural erosion, bringing together existing knowledge through EMODnet-Geology is timely.

The EMODnet Geology Submerged Landscapes data product and regional examples (Click to enlarge)

The EMODnet-Geology Submerged Landscapes data product aims to compile and harmonize available information on submerged landscape features by integrating existing records of palaeoenvironmental indicators with interpretations of geomorphology, stratigraphy and type of sediment. The fully attributed GIS layer now comprises 27 classes of submerged landscape and palaeoenvironmental indicators including mapped and modelled palaeocoastlines, evidence for submerged forests and peats, and submerged freshwater springs across all European seas. These data will be used to underpin palaeogeographic reconstructions at 20,000, 9000, and 6000 ka BP during the fourth phase of the project (2019-2021).

Vocabulary of submerged landscape features (Click to enlarge)

Basic background attributes include information on e.g. feature type, country, data holder, scale in which the feature has been mapped or modelled, and the age of the feature in calendar years BP. Confidence information is based on whether the feature has a good chronological and palaeoenvironmental control, was constructed using remote sensing data or has little or no direct evidence.

Attribute table explanations (Click to enlarge)

These data products build on the work of other projects such as the COST Action SPLASHCOS project, the EU FP-7 project SASMAP and the MEDFLOOD project, this work package aims at meeting the recommendations of the European Marine Board SUBLAND group as set out in their position paper Land beneath the Waves – Submerged landscapes and sea level change. We also have links with current projects such as NEPTUNE (NEw Procedures and Technologies for UNderwater paleo-landscapE reconstruction).

Please contact us for more information, to provide feedback or to submit data, and to engage with the Submerged Landscapes team.