Dear ICS Voting Members:
I have been in discussions over the weekend with John Van Couvering (representing Frits Hilgen) with regard to the proponents of the "Neogene" proposal requesting that the essence of the "Neogene" proposal be limited to 1) the Cenozoic being composed only of the Paleogene and Neogene periods/systems with the Neogene extending to the present and 2) the base of the Pleistocene Epoch/Series fixed by the Vrica GSSP. Should the "Neogene" proposal be approved by the ICS full commission, the "Neogene" proponents state that they would then enter into discussions with supporters of the Quaternary to find a compromise solution for including the Quternary in the time scale. I have refused this request because the Neogene and Quaternary subcommissions considered and voted on the "Neogene" proposal with a specific recommendation on the rank and extent of the Quaternary and with a division of the Pliocene into two epochs/series. And, we have been considering this proposal, along with the "Quaternary" proposal and the '"status quo" position for more than one month. The goal of the process that started with the open discussion meeting at the IGC in Oslo and the directive that was given to ICS by the IUGS EC has always been to determine the rank and extent of the Quaternary and the Pleistocene. The proponents of the "Neogene" proposal participated in these discussions and submitted a proposal with positions on the rank and extent of the Quaternary and the Pleistocene. To now want to change that proposal, when the time has come for ending the discussion and distributing the ballot, is unacceptable to me.
However, I made a mistake in my explanation of the "Neogene" proposal in my summary of the various proposals, which was distributed on 12 March (see 18. Finney's Views_02-12-09 posted on ICS website). In my explanation, I reviewed the implications to the rank and categories in the time scale for two alternatives of the "Neogene" proposal. In reading that proposal again today, I find that it recommends only one position on the rank and extent of the Quaternary, i.e., as a subperiod/subsystem, and also recommends subdivision of the Pliocene into two epochs/series termed Early/Lower Pliocene and Late/Upper Pliocene. Below I include a copy of the abstract of the "Neogene" proposal with the statements that present the recommendation underlined. My mistake arises from the fact that the "Neogene" proposal describes two possible alternatives for including the Quaternary in the "Neogene" scheme, and so do some of the papers submitted for distribution in support of the "Neogene" proposal. In addition, both schemes are shown together on the 2nd page of the proposal immediately following the title page and before the abstract. Yet, upon re-reading the "Neogene" proposal today, I find that it clearly recommends the single scheme mentioned above (see below). Nowhere in the "Neogene" proposal is there presented a scheme without the Quaternary. The second scheme that I described in my 12 March summary is much more complex than the one recommended because it involves not only subdivision of the Pliocene Epoch/Series into two epochs/series, but also replacement of the Neogene Period/System with two periods/systems. Thus, I ask that you disregard that part of my summary and focus instead on the simpler scheme, which was actually proposed.
Ballots will be sent out late this evening, Monday, 23rd March.
Abstract copied from "Neogene" Proposal:
We propose that the Cenozoic Era comprises the Paleogene and Neogene Periods and that the Quaternary be a Sub-Period spanning the past 2.6 Myr. Our objective is an inclusive compromise respecting both the predominantly marine tradition of the Neogene, well-established as spanning the Miocene-Recent, and the predominantly continental tradition of the Quaternary, recently the subject of another expansion back in time, this time to 2.6 Ma (base of Gelasian Age).
There are several solutions, as tabulated here, but there are broadly three alternatives. (i) The Quaternary is equivalent to the Late Neogene. (ii) In a flexible chronostratigraphic hierarchy, the Quaternary (and Tertiary, if retention of this obsolete entity is desired) is (are) elevated to Sub-Era whilst the Paleogene and Neogene are Periods of the Cenozoic, not of the Tertiary. (iii) The Neogene comprises only the later Tertiary (Miocene and earlier Pliocene).
Our objectives, of respecting the two traditions, of inclusive compromise, and of conserving both Neogene and Quaternary, are met in both options (i) and (ii). Option (iii), favoured in the Quaternary community, meets none of our objectives and renders the Neogene irrelevant.
Although we reject that option of a decapitated Neogene, we appreciate those arguments by the Quaternarists based on Quaternary being very special - emergence of Homo (Pleistocene), explosion in technology and society (Holocene), even human impact (Anthropocene); and the correspondingly exponential increase in publications and citations as we approach the present. These very arguments can ensure that chronostratigraphic precedent and stability are not threatened by arrangements in the youngest 0.07% of the stratigraphic record, such as the flexible hierarchy in option (ii).
However, we recommend option (i) in this proposal. The Pliocene/Pleistocene boundary remains at 1.80 Ma as currently defined but the Pliocene Epoch is split into an Early Pliocene and a Late Pliocene Epoch reminiscent of Lyell (1833). This action maintains hierarchy in the global chronostratigraphic scale.
Stanley C. Finney, Chair
Department of Geological Sciences
California State University - Long Beach
Long Beach, CA 90840 USA
Phone: (562) 985-8637
FAX: (562) 985-8638
Co-Director, Environmental Science & Policy Program
Chair, International Commission on Stratigraphy (IUGS)