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Dan Palcu
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D. Palcu, MSc
Paleomagnetic Laboratory
Fort Hoofddijk
Department of Earth Sciences 
Utrecht University 
Budapestlaan 17, 3584 CD Utrecht 
The Netherlands 

Phone +31 30 253 1361


Research of Dan Palcu

Mid-Life crisis of the Paratethys Sea
Dan's research project aims at establishing a detailed chronologic framework for the Neogene sediments deposited in the Eastern Paratethys area, with special focus on the middle Miocene of the Dacian Basin and Euxinic Basin (today's Black Sea). This framework will be constructed using an integrated magnetostratigraphic approach to the thick sedimentary sequences of the Carpathian Foredeep and Black Sea coast. 

Another requisite is quantifying the proposed - and still poorly understood - diachrony between deep-water halite and shallow-water gypsum formation. Detailed geochemical proxy records are needed to reconstruct the mode (instantaneous, gradual or stepwise) of salinity increase and to evaluate the contribution of the gateways to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, in collaboration with oceanic box modelling. 

The project will develop new proxy records to reconstruct variations in hydrography (hydrogen and oxygen isotopes) and basin-to-basin and basin-to-open ocean connectivity (SR, Nd isotopes). Paleosalinity variations in Paratethys at times of dramatic environmental changes will be reconstructed from the hydrogen isotopic composition (∂D ratio) of the molecular biomarkers. The compound-specific ∂D ratios will be analysed, measured on both terrestrial (e.g. n-alkanes) and aquatic biomarkers (phytane, alkenones). Together they constrain the mixing between freshwater and ocean water end-members, providing a quantification of salinity. 

Also, using his own data and the data of the other ongoing projects on Paratethys, Dan will focus on modeling the paleogeographic maps of the Eastern Paratethys realm during the Miocene. 


The circum-Mediterranean Miocene is marked by several occurrences of extraordinary paleoenvironmental catastrophes during which large water-masses were cut off from the open ocean, resulting in the formation of hypersaline waters, complete destruction of biological ecosystems, and deposition of massive (100-1000m) evaporite units in both the deep and marginal basins. These so-called salinity crises occurred in the Middle Miocene (~15 Ma) of the Red Sea, the Late Miocene (~6 Ma) of the Mediterranean11 and the Badenian (~14 Ma) of the Paratethys. They are commonly considered to have been caused by a complex interplay of tectonic and glacio-eustatic processes that resulted in progressive closure of the marine gateways, and hence in the obstruction of the hydrological exchange between different basins. Futhermore the reconnection of the basins coincides with dramatic changes in the marine ecosystems due to factors we do not fully understand. 


The sedimentary depostis that we focus on sampling consist of Middle Badeinan evaporites, commonly underlain by Lower Badenian deep marine siliciclastics and carbonates, and overlain by Upper Badenian marine sediments and transgressive Volhynian deep marine to brackish siliciclastic deposits. These deposits also contain several volcanic ash levels, suitable for radiometric dating. Very good exposures are found in the Carpathian foreland domain and the Northern and Western Black Sea Coasts.
The Badenian and Volhynian sediments will be sampled on different transects in Carpathian, Black Sea and Caspian Sea areas, for integrated stratigraphy and geochronology. The organic rich shales below and above the evaporites and the transgressions will be studied for high-resolution proxy records (∂D, Sr, Nd) that will reveal the rates of salinity change and variations in connectivity with the open ocean system. Quantitative estimates on paleosalinity and hydrology will be determined to validate the depositional environments.
Paleoenvironmental proxy records will allow reconstructing through time the environmental response of sea retreat (aridification, cooling, monsoon intensification, biotic events) to tectonism (collision, exhumation, crustal deformation, basin formation) and to global climatic trends (EOT). 

Dan is supervised by Wout Krijgsman and Marius Stoica.

publications Publications of Dan Palcu
  • Van Baak, C.G.C., Vasiliev,I., Palcu, D.V., Dekkers, M.J. and Krijgsman, W. (2016) A greigite-based magnetostratigraphic time frame for the Late Miocene to Recent DSDP Leg 42B cores from the Black Sea. Front. Earth Sci. 4:60. doi:10.3389/feart.2016.00060  
  • Palcu, D.V., Tulbure, M., Bartol, M., Kouwenhoven, T.J., Krijgsman, W. (2105). The Badenian-Sarmatian Extinction Event in the Carpathian foredeep basin of Romania: paleogeographic changes in the Paratethys domain, Global and Planetary Change, 133, 346-358.