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Peter D. A. Boyd
The micropalaeontology and palaeoecology of medieval estuarine sediments from the Fleet and Thames in London
Peter D. A. Boyd
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BOYD, P.D.A. 1981(b). The micropalaeontology and palaeoecology of medieval estuarine sediments from the Fleet and Thames in London. In Neale and Brasier 1981 Microfossils from Recent and Fossil Shelf Seas. Ellis Horwood, Chichester, 274- 292.
Redevelopment of a site in Tudor Street in the City of London in 1978 provided an opportunity to examine estuarine sediments deposited at the mouth of the River Fleet (a tributary of the Thames) in medieval times. The waterlogged sediments contained remarkably well preserved biological remains. Over 140 species of freshwater, brackish-water and marine organisms have been recorded which include diatoms, silicoflagellates, organic-walled microplankton, charophytes, angiosperms, testate amoebae, foraminifera, sponges, thecate hydroids, polychaete worms, parasitic nematode worms, freshwater bryozoans, bivalve and gastropod molluscs, cladocerans, ostracods and echinoids. Reworked microfossils from Cretaceous and Tertiary sedimentary rocks were also common. Sediment transport processes as well as changing environmental conditions were important factors in determining the composition and character of the preserved flora and fauna and both factors were influenced by human activities. It has been possible to suggest correlations between events identified in the sedimentary record with actual climatic and pollution events recorded in medieval documents. The flora and fauna provide evidence of nutrient enrichment caused by sewage pollution in the Fleet during the first part of the fourteenth century until the commencement of a period of catastrophic pollution by organic waste in 1343 which destroyed most of the aquatic life of the river and left a flora and fauna of severely reduced diversity characteristic of polluted conditions. Land reclamation finally progressed across the site between about 1350 and 1360 A.D. The significance of this study to the palaeoecology of more ancient estuarine deposits and the history of water pollution is discussed.
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