Russian Scientists Discover Unique Rock Formations In South Of Dagestan

The loess layers in the south of Dagestan. Photo: Telegram channel of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences / IGRAS
The loess layers in the south of Dagestan. Photo: Telegram channel of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences / IGRAS

Russian scientists have discovered deposits of loess – sedimentary rocks that can tell a lot about the climate of past eras and help predict future changes – in the southern part of Dagestan. In these previously unexplored strata, soil profiles formed at a time when herds of mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses roamed the Earth and man had just begun to inhabit Eurasia can be traced. The staff of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences took part in the expedition on the border of Russia with Azerbaijan in the contact zone of the Eastern Caucasus and the Primorye Lowland.

“Loess soil series are a unique natural archive in which global climate change on Earth over the Quaternary is recorded. The accumulation of loess occurred in the specific cold conditions of glaciations and was repeatedly interrupted by warmer interglacial periods, during which soils were formed,” said Pavel Panin, senior researcher at the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Based on the features of the structure of paleosols, scientists reconstruct the landscape and climate conditions of the distant past. Having traced the sequence of changes of these formations from the early Pleistocene to the present day, we can assume what climate changes await us in the future.

“The thickness of the loess rocks of Dagestan reaches tens of meters; they cover an area of several thousand hectares. Surprisingly, from literary sources, loesses in this region were previously noted sporadically, mainly in the context of their use in agriculture or for the production of building materials. There were only small review papers by the staff of the Institute of Geology of the Republic of Dagestan on this topic. Therefore, the loesses of the south of Dagestan are unique and practically unexplored formations," Pavel Panin stressed.

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The study of loess deposits in Dagestan. Photo: Telegram channel of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences / IGRAS
The study of loess deposits in Dagestan. Photo: Telegram channel of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences / IGRAS

The participants of the expedition, conducted by the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences together with the Pushchinsky Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Geology of the Republic of Dagestan of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Erismann Federal Research Center for Hygiene examined several areas where paleosol profiles are visible in the vertical walls of loess outcrops. The most detailed and informative series was discovered near the village of Kurkent, whose residents provided great assistance to the scientists.

According to preliminary data, the paleosol profiles found by the expedition belong to the Early, Middle, and Late Pleistocene. Scientists have collected samples that have yet to be studied in the laboratory.

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The study of loess deposits in Dagestan. Photo: Telegram channel of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences / IGRAS
The study of loess deposits in Dagestan. Photo: Telegram channel of the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences / IGRAS