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Quaternary geology of Belgium : new perspectives. Preface
1The initiation of this special volume was based on a suggestion by Roland Paepe, Quaternary Geologist at the Belgian Geological Survey between 1964-1999, that a collection of research and review papers on the Quaternary Geology of Belgium might be a suitable theme to commemorate the centennial of the Survey.
2The principal objective of this special volume is to document recent developments in the Quaternary Geology of Belgium and to present a comprehensive account of the present understanding of stratigraphy and processes. Indeed, the generally accepted current ideas about the Quaternary Geology, frequently repeated in most of the existing syntheses, were in urgent need of re-evaluation. Papers have been solicited in order to give the broadest possible coverage. Invitations to contribute to the volume were sent out to 15 potential authors in January 1997 from whom 7 contributors submitted single or joint-authored manuscripts.
3The papers encapsulate research themes that are currently investigated in Belgium. Although they represent a limited geographical coverage, it is hoped that this shortcoming will stimulate constructive thought rather than frustration.
4The first three papers deal with regional stratigraphy. Paul Haesaerts and co-authors give for the first time a detailed reconstruction and interpretation of the Rocourt soil preserved in a 20 m thick loess record at Remicourt. Willy Huybrechts presents an outline of the floodplain sediments of medium-sized rivers in the western parts of Central Belgium and interprets the various facies in relation to changing environmental conditions in river catchments and their floodplains during the last 13.000 years. Cécile Baeteman documents the formation of the Holocene sedimentary sequence in relation to the controlling factors in the western coastal plain and discusses the stratigraphical significance of intercalated peat layers.
5Research methodologies and their applications are covered in the following four papers. Etienne Juvigné, in a review paper, gives a summary of earlier syntheses about the characteristics and distribution of the different volcanic ash-falls found in the Quaternary formations of Belgium, with a list of references dealing with Quaternary tephrostratigraphy in Belgium. Jef Hus and Raoul Geeraerts discuss the palaeomagnetic investigation of several loess-palaeosol deposits and demonstrate the usefulness of magnetic susceptibility to differentiate units and correlate them between sites. Cyriel Verbruggen provides an overview of the palaeobotany of northern Belgium by reassessing previous Pleistocene and Holocene palaeobotanical data and incorporating unpublished data of the Pleistocene record. Luc Denys presents the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and Holocene development of the north-eastern part of the western coastal plain on the basis of diatom and radiocarbon data. He proposes a tentative chronology of regional tendencies in the marine influence derived from bio- and lithostratigraphical indications resulting in an interesting disagreement with the paper by Baeteman.
6This volume, representing a summary of research in a great variety of research themes, should be useful to the Belgian community of Quaternary researchers in particular, in addition to the wider scientific community interested in the Belgian Quaternary.
7The guest editor acknowledges with thanks reviews of the manuscripts by D.J. Beets, P. Cleveringa, N.J. Conard, W. de Cans, R. Gehlers, P. Kiden, A.J. Long, T. van Kolfschoten, G. Seret, C. Verbruggen and P. Vos.
8Thanks are also due to the authors themselves who made the publication of this volume possible. Their patience in particular is acknowledged in view of its delay.