Devonian deep-sea environments as a key to understanding global ecosystem perturbations

Devonian deep-sea environments as a key to understanding global ecosystem perturbations

  • Principal Investigator: Prof. Grzegorz Racki, University of Silesia
  • Project title: Devonian deep-sea environments as a key to understanding global ecosystem perturbations
  • Funding scheme: MAESTRO 4, announced on 15th December 2012

“Devonian deep-sea environments as a key to understanding global ecosystem perturbations” is a geological research project focusing on the Devonian period (418 to 369 million years ago), which stands out in the history of the Earth due to ground-breaking changes in the marine and terrestrial biosphere and numerous biodiversity crises which occurred at that time. In order to better understand the root causes of these global perturbations related to dynamically evolving climate, it is essential to extend the scope of ongoing research beyond the best known maritime environments of the time, i.e. warm areas of shallow water shelves in the subtropical zone.

Interdisciplinary research has been planned, including stratigraphic, paleoecological and geochemical studies to investigate the record of selected global events in poorly known maritime zones, including the deep-water zone and, partially, the cold climate zone in ten selected regions (including Siberia, China, South America and Australia). Such global-scale analytical work worth ca. € 710 000 is instrumental to improving our understanding of the circumstances surrounding great extinctions in our geological history, but it is also relevant to the current debate about future changes in the ecosystem. In accordance with the general principle that “you cannot understand the present or forecast the future without a profound understanding of the past”, the universal significance of the project is reflected by the planned thorough analyses of how current biocenoses react to ongoing environmental changes, such as the acidification of sea water in the context of the deteriorating greenhouse effect.

The project will be implemented with the participation of 17 mostly young research fellows of the University of Silesia, with broad support from other Polish institutions (the Institute of Paleobiology and Institute of Geological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Adam Mickiewicz University) and contributions from international partners under the auspices of the UNESCO-affiliated international Subcommission on Devonian Stratigraphy (SDS). The unique research material and analytical data which we intend to collect in the process will translate into the globally leading role of Polish research centres in studies focusing on this period in the history of the Earth.  It will give rise to new research projects, as well as contribute to future Ph.D. dissertations and major publications. The international contacts and unique field experience gained by young researchers cannot be overestimated considering their future career outlook. Three research positions will be created as part of the project, i.e. a position for the Principal Investigator, a postdoctoral researcher and a Ph.D. student. The results obtained from the study will be published as a database available on a dedicated website.

Prof. Grzegorz Racki

Professor Racki is a full professor at the Faculty of Earth Sciences of the University of Silesia in Sosnowiec. He graduated in geology from the University of Warsaw in 1976. From 2006 to 2010 he was Head of the Institute for Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. He represents Poland as a titular member of the international Subcommission on Devonian Stratigraphy. He has also been appointed member of the Academic Good Practice Team of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. He is author and co-author of almost 100 publications, including a monograph published in 2005 in the prestigious Elsevier series. His research interests focus on global ecological disasters in the history of the Earth (see


Date of publication: 10th Jun, 2015