Project

Maastrichtian Geoheritage Project

Goal: Worldwide, the youngest time interval of the Cretaceous Period is known as the Maastrichtian, a reference to the rock layers exposed in the area surrounding the city of Maastricht, in the Netherlands-Belgium border region. We owe this international reference to the instrumental work of Belgian geologist André Hubert Dumont, who, in 1849, first described the rock layers in the valley of the Meuse River, close to the present-day ENCI quarry. Consequently, the rock sequence in the ENCI quarry constitutes the original type-locality of the Maastrichtian, the reference site for this geological stage, and as such it plays an important role in worldwide geological research, for instance in the debate about the extinction of the dinosaurs, ammonites and other organisms at the end of the Cretaceous, 66 million years ago. The Maastrichtian rocks are also world famous for their large number of excavated mosasaur skeletons, huge reptiles that were the top predators of the Maastrichtian seas. The rock succession in the ENCI quarry only covers the upper part of the currently defined Maastrichtian Stage, but in combination with similar rock sequences in several other quarries in the area around Maastricht in the Netherlands and Belgium, nearly the entire Maastrichtian Stage is represented.

Despite the importance of the rocks exposed around Maastricht to the global geological community, over the last few decades, one by one the quarries in the region have been closed. Instrumental quarries such as those of Curfs and Blom have already been out of commission for more than a decade, while others, such as the ENCI quarry and the ’t Rooth quarry are scheduled to close within the next few years. Because the soft limestone rocks weather easily and become overgrown rapidly , access to and study of the Maastrichtian rock succession in its type area is becoming very limited. To preserve the geological heritage of this original type-locality of the Maastrichtian, we have initiated the ‘Maastrichtian Geoheritage Project’.

The goal of the ‘Maastrichtian Geoheritage Project’ is to preserve the geological heritage of the Maastrichtian type area by (1) digital imagery, using drone photogrammetry and Differential GPS Base & Rover to generate high-resolution and georeferenced 3D models of the most important quarries in the Maastrichtian type region; (2) archiving rock samples of these quarries for future research; and to (3) to raise public awareness, in particular amongst the region inhabitants, of the history of the mining and cement industry in the region and its impact on the landscape, as well as of its unique geological treasures, and the contribution of these quarries to international geological and paleontological research.

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Project log

Johan Vellekoop
added 2 research items
Paleotemperature reconstructions linked to Deccan traps volcanic greenhouse gas emissions and associated feedbacks in the lead-up to the end-Cretaceous meteorite impact and extinction document local and global climate trends during a key interval of geologic history. Here, we present a new clumped-isotope-based paleotemperature record derived from fossil bivalves from the Maastrichtian type region, in southeast Netherlands and northeast Belgium. Clumped isotope data documents a mean temperature of 19.2 ± 3.8 °C, consistent with other Maastrichtian temperature estimates, and an average seawater δ18O value of −0.3 ± 0.9 ‰ VSMOW for the region during the latest Cretaceous (67.1–66.0 Ma). A notable temperature increase at ~66.4 Ma is interpreted to be a regional manifestation of the globally-defined Late Maastrichtian Warming Event, linking Deccan Traps volcanic CO2 emissions prior to the end-Cretaceous extinction to climate change in the Maastricht region. Fluctuating seawater δ18O values coinciding with temperature changes suggest alternating influences of warm, salty southern-sourced waters and cooler, fresher northern-sourced waters from the Arctic Ocean. This new paleotemperature record contributes to the understanding of regional and global climate response to large-scale volcanism and ocean circulation changes leading up to a catastrophic mass extinction.
Johan Vellekoop
added a research item
Paleotemperature reconstructions of the end-Cretaceous interval document local and global climate trends, some driven by greenhouse gas emissions from Deccan Traps volcanism and associated feedbacks. Here, we present a new clumped-isotope-based paleotemperature record derived from fossil bivalves from the Maastrichtian type region in southeastern Netherlands and northeastern Belgium. Clumped isotope data document a mean temperature of 20.4±3.8 ∘C, consistent with other Maastrichtian temperature estimates, and an average seawater δ18O value of 0.2±0.8 ‰ VSMOW for the region during the latest Cretaceous (67.1–66.0 Ma). A notable temperature increase at ∼66.4 Ma is interpreted to be a regional manifestation of the globally defined Late Maastrichtian Warming Event, linking Deccan Traps volcanic CO2 emissions to climate change in the Maastricht region. Fluctuating seawater δ18O values coinciding with temperature changes suggest alternating influences of warm, salty southern-sourced waters and cooler, fresher northern-sourced waters from the Arctic Ocean. This new paleotemperature record contributes to the understanding of regional and global climate response to large-scale volcanism and ocean circulation changes leading up to a catastrophic mass extinction.
Pim Kaskes
added a research item
The mid-Maastrichtian carbon isotope event (MME), dated at~69 Ma, reflects a perturbation of the global carbon cycle that, in part, correlates with the enigmatic global extinction of 'true' (i.e., non-tegulated) inoceramid bivalves. The mechanisms of this extinction event are still debated. While both the inoceramid extirpation and MME have been recorded in a variety of deep-sea sites, little is known about their expression in epicontinental chalk seas. In order to study the shallow-marine signature of the MME in this epicontinental shelf sea, we have generated quantitative foraminiferal assemblage data for two quarries (Hallembaye, NE Belgium; ENCI, SE Netherlands) in the Maastrichtian type area, complemented by a species-specific benthic δ 13 C record. In contrast to deep-sea records, no significant changes in benthic foraminiferal assemblages and benthic foraminiferal accumulation rates are observed across the MME in the type-Maastrichtian area. At the Hallembaye quarry, the otherwise rare endobenthic species Cuneus trigona reaches a transient peak abundance of 33.3% at the onset of the MME, likely caused by a local transient change in organic matter flux to the seafloor. Nevertheless, high and near-constant species evenness shows that neither oxygen nor organic matter flux was limited across the extinction level or during the MME. Benthic foraminiferal data from the uppermost part of the studied section, above the MME, indicate a significant increase in food supply to the seafloor. Decreased amounts of terrigenous elements across this interval document a lesser riv-erine or aeolian influx, which means that the increased benthic productivity is linked to a different origin. Potentially, the continuous precipitation of chalk under nutrient-poor conditions in the Late Cretaceous chalk sea was enabled by efficient nutrient recycling in the water column. In shallower depositional settings, nutrient recycling took place closer to the seafloor, which allowed more organic matter to reach the bottom. These results provide insights in the importance of nutrient cycling for biological productivity in the NW-European chalk sea.
Pim Kaskes
added a research item
The youngest time interval of the Cretaceous Period is known as the Maastrichtian, in reference to the shallow-marine strata outcropping in the area surrounding the city of Maastricht, in the Netherlands- Belgium border region. While the type-Maastrichtian strata have yielded a wealth of paleontological data, comparatively little geochemical work has so far been carried out on this succession. To date, age assessment of the type-Maastrichtian, and stratigraphic correlation with sections elsewhere, have largely been based on biostratigraphy and preliminary attempts at cyclostratigraphy. However, these techniques are hampered by bio-provincialism and the presence of stratigraphic gaps in the succession, respectively. In recent years, stable carbon isotope stratigraphy has proven to be a powerful tool for correlating Upper Cretaceous strata on a global scale. When integrated with biostratigraphy, carbon isotope stratigraphy can be used to test the synchroneity of biological and climatic events across the globe and to reconcile inter-regional biostratigraphic schemes. Therefore, we have generated the first high-resolution bulk stable carbon isotope stratigraphy for the type- Maastrichtian, using an extensive sample set acquired within the context of the Maastrichtian Geoheritage Project spanning approximately 100 meters of stratigraphy at the Hallembaye and former ENCI quarries. In combination with bulk major and trace element data generated using μXRF, this record presents the first high- resolution chemostratigraphic survey for the type-Maastrichtian. The μXRF-based element profiles through the type-Maastrichtian succession reveal variable fluxes of terrigenous input into this carbonate system over time, marking three distinct stratigraphic sequences, separated by sequence boundaries at the Froidmont, Lichtenberg and Vroenhoven horizons. In addition, the carbon isotope profile records the Campanian–Maastrichtian Boundary Event (CMBE) and the Mid-Maastrichtian Event (MME) in the Maastrichtian type area for the first time. Our refined age model allows for global correlation between the type-Maastrichtian sequence and Maastrichtian successions worldwide and places the abundant paleontological records from the type- Maastrichtian in a global context.
Johan Vellekoop
added a project goal
Worldwide, the youngest time interval of the Cretaceous Period is known as the Maastrichtian, a reference to the rock layers exposed in the area surrounding the city of Maastricht, in the Netherlands-Belgium border region. We owe this international reference to the instrumental work of Belgian geologist André Hubert Dumont, who, in 1849, first described the rock layers in the valley of the Meuse River, close to the present-day ENCI quarry. Consequently, the rock sequence in the ENCI quarry constitutes the original type-locality of the Maastrichtian, the reference site for this geological stage, and as such it plays an important role in worldwide geological research, for instance in the debate about the extinction of the dinosaurs, ammonites and other organisms at the end of the Cretaceous, 66 million years ago. The Maastrichtian rocks are also world famous for their large number of excavated mosasaur skeletons, huge reptiles that were the top predators of the Maastrichtian seas. The rock succession in the ENCI quarry only covers the upper part of the currently defined Maastrichtian Stage, but in combination with similar rock sequences in several other quarries in the area around Maastricht in the Netherlands and Belgium, nearly the entire Maastrichtian Stage is represented.
Despite the importance of the rocks exposed around Maastricht to the global geological community, over the last few decades, one by one the quarries in the region have been closed. Instrumental quarries such as those of Curfs and Blom have already been out of commission for more than a decade, while others, such as the ENCI quarry and the ’t Rooth quarry are scheduled to close within the next few years. Because the soft limestone rocks weather easily and become overgrown rapidly , access to and study of the Maastrichtian rock succession in its type area is becoming very limited. To preserve the geological heritage of this original type-locality of the Maastrichtian, we have initiated the ‘Maastrichtian Geoheritage Project’.
The goal of the ‘Maastrichtian Geoheritage Project’ is to preserve the geological heritage of the Maastrichtian type area by (1) digital imagery, using drone photogrammetry and Differential GPS Base & Rover to generate high-resolution and georeferenced 3D models of the most important quarries in the Maastrichtian type region; (2) archiving rock samples of these quarries for future research; and to (3) to raise public awareness, in particular amongst the region inhabitants, of the history of the mining and cement industry in the region and its impact on the landscape, as well as of its unique geological treasures, and the contribution of these quarries to international geological and paleontological research.