Fossiliferous sites of the southern coast of Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil: geoheritage records of Quaternary sea-level, climate and environmental changes

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Renato Lopes
Jamil Corrêa Pereira
Matias do Nascimento Ritter
Eduardo Guimarães Barboza
Felipe Caron
Sérgio Rebello Dillenburg
Maria Luiza Corrêa da Cãmara Rosa


The southern coastal plain of Rio Grande do Sul state hosts essential fossil records of both marine and terrestrial faunas that have provided invaluable information about the geological and environmental Quaternary history of southern Brazil. These fossils are found in surface and subsurface deposits on sites stretching from the continental shelf up to coastal lagoons inland. The sites on the shelf are time-averaged lag deposits formed of marine and terrestrial fossils exhumed and mixed together as a result of erosion of the original deposits by sea-level oscillations. Although lacking any precise stratigraphic context, the available numerical dates indicate Middle to late Pleistocene ages. Fossils removed from the shelf by waves today form large Konzentratt-Lagerstätten on the beach, called concheiros. The sites on continental areas occur in barrier-lagoon depositional systems, and include marine deposits formed under higher than present sea levels formed by Middle and late Pleistocene and Early-Middle Holocene marine transgressions. The fossiliferous sites with well-defined stratigraphic context encompass fluvial and aeolian (loess) deposits and paleosols associated with the Middle-late Pleistocene Santa Vitória Alloformation and Cordão Formation outcropping along Chuy Creek. Fossils of late Pleistocene terrestrial and Holocene marine organisms were collected from the bottom and marginal terraces of Mirim Lagoon. Although most sites are not directly under threat today, their wide distribution poses potential problems for protection. Current protection measures for the sites and associated fossils include requests by environmental agencies for preliminary surveys and fossil rescue programs prior to construction projects, and the proposal of a marine-coastal protected area is currently under consideration. Educational programs with schools and exhibits for the general public executed by the museums in the town of Santa Vitória do Palmar have contributed to public awareness about the importance of the regional paleontological heritage and have produced positive feedback and results that increased the number of known fossiliferous sites in the region thanks to communication by local people. These actions are essential to establish protection measures in case new developments emerge in the future that could threaten the sites and their fossils.

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Lopes, Renato, Jamil Corrêa Pereira, Matias do Nascimento Ritter, Eduardo Guimarães Barboza, Felipe Caron, Sérgio Rebello Dillenburg, and Maria Luiza Corrêa da Cãmara Rosa. 2024. “Fossiliferous Sites of the Southern Coast of Rio Grande Do Sul State, Brazil: Geoheritage Records of Quaternary Sea-Level, Climate and Environmental Changes”. Journal of the Geological Survey of Brazil 7 (SI2).
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