Peats are commonly used in paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic studies but detailed sedimentological and facies models for peatlands are poorly developed relative to other sedimentary settings. A comparison of the palynology and charcoal abundances in modern and ancient Cenozoic peats (i.e., brown coals) demonstrates that, in a single cycle, their respective flora commonly evolves from inundated wetland assemblages to more elevated and well-drained forest. The repetitive nature of this pattern suggests that the changing floral compositions result from changes in substrate wetness during peatland aggradation in high rainfall settings. In this scenario, floristic changes within the peat are suggested to represent peatland facies that were controlled by the local peat-forming environment. We suggest that peatland aggradation is an important process that may ubiquitously control the floral and environmental changes documented in modern and Holocene ombrogenous peats, brown coal lithotype cycles, and perhaps black coal dulling-upwards cycles.
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Vol. 32 • No. 10