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Climate change and mercury pollution found to stress plants for millions of years

At the end of the Triassic period (201 million years ago), the Earth's climate changed drastically with massive occurrence of volcanic eruptions. This period marked a significant change in the species composition of plants. A new study published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, co-authored by Tomáš Navrátil and Jan Rohovec of the Department of Environmental Geochemistry, explains geological conditions leading to the changes in the biota. By combining paleoecological and geochemical approaches, we have gained insight into a complex and long-term sequence of events in which global warming of the paleoclimate and an increase in the concentration of toxic metal mercury, released into the atmosphere during volcanic eruptions, acted together as stressors. As a result, trees were replaced by ferns during the 1.3 million-year extinction interval.

New paper about stromatolites from Czechia

Stromatolites are organosedimentary laminated structures that grow gradually through time due to the activity of microorganisms. The presence of stromatolites in formations as old as ∼3.7 Ga provides the earliest macroscopic traces of life on the Earth. A new paper under the leadership of Lukáš Ackerman of the Institute of Geology presents a detailed study of Ediacaran stromatolitic cherts from the Bohemian Massif. Collected data suggest a biogenic origin of primary carbonaceous stromatolite precursors that formed in shallow-water lagoons on seamount slopes. The presence of late-stage diagenetic modifications may be related to subsequent burial and low-grade metamorphism within the accretionary wedge. This paper represents a significant contribution to the stromatolite issue. Link: This paper

The current Icelandic eruption studied by a volcanologist

Between 2021 and 2023, the Reykjanes Peninsula experienced three eruptions within the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system. Currently, the volcanic activity has shifted to the more western Svartsengi system. Volcanologist Lukáš Krmíček, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Iceland, collected liquid lava from the current Icelandic eruption. The research will help us in solving the question as to whether and in which aspects are the Fagradalsfjall and Svartsengi volcanic systems interconnected. Those interested in the latest Icelandic volcanoes can find additional information in the forthcoming book “The world of volcanoes up close”: link here.

An Honorary Medal in Geosciences

Upon the proposal of the Institute of Geology of the Czech Acad Sci, Prof. RNDr. Ivan Horáček, CSc. of the Faculty of Science, Charles University, was granted the František Pošepný Honorary Medal in Geosciences on 21 March 2024. The eulogy speech at this occasion was given by his student and colleague Stanislav Čermák of the Institute of Geology. Prof. Ivan Horáček started his career at this Institute and worked here for many years. Throughout his career, he has been very successful in the study of fossil mammals, among others. His outstanding activities greatly contributed to the development of Czech paleontology, inspiring many other scientists as well as students. Prof. Ivan Horáček also did a remarkable job in the promotion of paleobiological sciences among the public. Congratulations!
For detailed information click here. Photo by Jana Plavec, Czech Acad Sci

A unique fossil site in southern France reveals the history of polar ecosystems

In 2018, a pair of enthusiastic paleontologists discovered a site in southern France where, in addition to the usual fossilized shells and skeletons, even remains of soft bodies of ancient organisms were preserved. This site, the study of which was also contributed by Lukáš Laibl of the Institute of Geology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and Martina Nohejlová of the Czech Geological Survey, offers a hitherto unknown view of polar ecosystems 470 million years ago. The site was located near the South Pole at that time, whereas the most similar sites with preserved soft bodies come from former tropical regions. Moreover, the high diversity of species at the new site confirms the migration hypothesis towards the southern hemisphere, where these species sought refuge from the high temperatures prevailing in the then-tropical zones.
The link to the article is here
Image caption: Artistic reconstruction of the Cabrières biota © Christian McCall

A new international stratotype in the Paleozoic of the Barrandian area

The International Commission on Stratigraphy IUGS, through its plenary power, has designated the fourth Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) in the Lower Paleozoic of the Barrandian area. On December 27, 2023, the Commission selected the black shale succession of the Želkovice Formation near Hlásná Třebaň as the international stratotype for the lower Silurian Aeronian Stage. This decision resulted from the extensive study, description, and proposal by an international research team led by Petr Štorch of the Institute of Geology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Together with the existing Devonian base stratotype at Klonk near Suchomasty, the Pragian base stratotype at Velká Chuchle and the Přídolí base stratotype at the Požáry Quarry near Řeporyje, the Hlásná Třebaň section poses an unparalleled concentration of global stratotype sections worldwide.

Gaseous elemental mercury in air decreased after phasing out of amalgam electrolysis

A new study by the team of the Environmental Geology and Geochemistry Department led by Tomáš Navrátil found that elevated concentrations of gaseous elemental mercury and also particle-bound mercury in the air near Spolana Neratovice decreased rapidly after the shutdown of the amalgam electrolysis line in 2017. Annual air measurements performed since 2013 indicated a decrease by over 60 %. The study published in journal Environmental Science Pollution and Research further indicates that the concentrations of gaseous elemental mercury in the air near Neratovice still remain approximately doubled compared to sites unaffected by emissions.

Institute of Geology involved in science promotion at schools

On October 31 and November 1, a pilot event of an educational project financed by the Czechoslovak Microscopic Society was organized by our colleague Eva Pecková. Within their „Journey from Microworld to Macroworld“, students of grades 3 and 8 of the Dolákova Basic School in Prague 8 analysed specimens from living and inanimate nature using their optical microscopes as well as images from the polarizing and electron microscopes of the Inst Geol. The event received high rating from the school management, and the whole project will be continued (for info see Osmička monthly or School webpage). Other educational activities at basic schools were performed within the project Strategy AV21 (Dynamic Planet Earth programme). Altogether 17 events were organized by our colleague Martina Kočová-Veselská in 2023. Being focused on geology and palaeontology, they were taken as a supplement to standard curricula.

Signum Excellentiae medal for Lukáš Krmíček

On the occasion of the November 17 anniversary of the events in 1939 and 1989, a ceremonial assembly of the academic community was held in the historic hall of the Faculty of Civil Engineering, BUT Brno, at which important personalities were honoured. Prof. RNDr. Lukáš Krmíček, Ph.D. was awarded the Signum Excellentiae ("sign of excellence") silver medal for his outstanding achievements in publishing scientific articles, research in the field of geosciences, and for pedagogical and science-promotion activities. Lukáš Krmíček is engaged in comprehensive research in the field of volcanology and geochemistry of igneous rocks at Institute of Geology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. In the current issue of Vesmír magazine, he published an article dedicated to the Litli-Hrútur volcano, which arose on the Icelandic peninsula of Reykjanes in July 2023.

Study of continental red beds in Utah

On the Colorado Plateau, thick sequences of sediments can be observed in deep canyons or various rock formations. Well known are the rocky sceneries of national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands and Arches. Some rocks show a striking red coloration. A few days ago, a team of geologists of the Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc and the Institute of Geology of the Czech Academy of Sciences returned from Utah. They studied Permian to Jurassic sediments around Moab with the aim to characterize the conditions under which the red coloration of these rocks is formed.

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