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Paleoenvironments of the Cappadocia region during the Neogene and Quaternary, central Turkey

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Abstract

The Cappadocia region located in the centre of Anatolia is mainly known because of its Neogene and Quaternary volcanism and related geomorphology showing spectacular erosional landscapes. However, in contrast to its relatively well-studied volcanic and geomorphic history, studies on its sedimentary deposits together with its environmental and climatic history are still few. In this study, we outline the paleoenvironments of the Cappadocia region through sedimentological and paleontological data. We interpreted five Neogene and Quaternary depositional environments based on 29 lithofacies described in this study, and mammal and pollen fossil contents described by previous studies in the study area. Three terrestrial packages in these periods mainly represented by fluvial and lacustrine environments were elaborated through facies descriptions. Lithofacies variations in each of these successions indicate deposition in highly dynamic environments. The middle Miocene succession is mostly represented by braided river deposits expressing deposition in a relatively high energetic environment, whereas the late Miocene–Pliocene units similarly indicate a braided river system, but was dominated by lacustrine and floodplain facies intercalated with large amount of volcanic products. Quaternary sediments in the region deposited in similar environments mainly filling the large sedimentary basins bounded by active faults and around the recent riverbeds. As pointed out by palynological data, the northern part of the Cappadocia region was dominated by arboreal taxa during the middle Miocene relative to following periods, and there is a general trend of increase in steppic herbs since the early late Miocene consistent with paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic data collected from the entire Eastern Mediterranean region. Mammal fossil content of the sedimentary and volcanoclastic units in the study area, which are correlative with stratigraphic levels where palynological studies were carried out, also indicates an herb-dominated relatively arid ecosystem since the late Miocene. Faunal data in this time coincide with a dramatic diversification in Anatolia caused by regional tectonics driven by continental collision between the Eurasian and Arabian plates in the east. While the neotectonics and climatic conditions shaped the current landscape of Anatolia mainly during the early–middle Pleistocene, insufficient mammal and pollen data from this time interval still make the early Quaternary evolution of the Cappadocia region a debate. On the other hand, detailed and robustly dated palynological data from the late Pleistocene–Holocene of the region establish a gradual increase of arboreal taxa during the early Holocene, while it is characterized by an increase in steppic herbs in the late Holocene. In addition, as a result of its very rich cultural history, anthropogenic factors should have influenced this environmental change during this period, as evidenced in several locations throughout Anatolia.

Introduction

Anatolia is located in a key position among the Asia, Africa and Europe continents, and includes a long history of faunal and floral abundance. During the Neogene, the southern branch of Neotethys Ocean was closed and the neotectonics of Anatolia was shaped. In this period, tectonism, volcanism, and climate played important roles in shaping the landscape and influenced the distribution of its biota, and diversified its paleogeographic history. Today, the Central Anatolia represents well-preserved records of all mentioned geological agents within its unconcealed topography and stratigraphy. Particularly in the eastern half of Central Anatolia, the Cappadocia region has a spectacular geomorphology and well-exposed geology.

As a result of the tectonic configurations during the Neogene and Quaternary periods, the Anatolian platelet was subject to the combined effects of both contractional and extensional tectonics that resulted in intense magmatic activity all along Turkey, developed as separate volcanic provinces (Fig. 1a; e.g., Türkecan 2015). The Cappadocia region represents one of these volcanologically remarkable provinces. Although the current landscape and landforms and volcanic history of the Cappadocia Volcanic Province have been addressed in various detailed studies (e.g., Pasquarè 1968; Innocenti et al. 1975; Arık 1985; Ercan 1986; Emre 1991; Toprak and Göncüoğlu 1993; Le Pennec et al. 1994, 2005; Kuzucuoğlu et al. 1998, 2019a; Pastre et al. 1998; Temel et al. 1998; Gevrek and Kazancı 2000; Gençalioğlu-Kuşçu and Geneli 2010; Viereck-Goette et al. 2010; Aydar et al. 2012, 2013; Çiner et al. 2013, 2015a; Aydın et al. 2014; Lepetit et al. 2014; Sarıkaya et al. 2015a; Çiner and Aydar 2019; Doğan et al. 2019; Mouralis et al. 2019), its Neogene–Quaternary geology has not been considered as a whole with its both depositional environments and biota. The mentioned studies were mainly focused on dating of volcanic-pyroclastic units and geomorphic features, and not interested to outline the paleoenvironmental evolution of the region except a few studies dealing with Neogene and Quaternary (e.g., middle Miocene—Akgün et al. 1995; late Miocene–Pliocene—Le Pennec et al. 2005; Ocakoğlu 2004; late Pleistocene—Türkecan et al. 2004). However, radiometrically well-dated volcanic and volcanoclastic materials in the stratigraphic successions, and a wealth of faunal and floral data load an overwhelming importance to the Cappadocia region to obviate many regional and local controversies related to fossil dating and paleogeographic responses to global and regional geological events (e.g., the middle Miocene Climatic Optimum, Messinian Salinity Crises, Arabian-Eurasian plates continental collision, volcanic explosions, etc.). In addition to such controversies, as Strömberg et al. (2007) pointed out, floral remains are prone to be conserved mainly under wet climatic, anaerobic, and low-energy conditions, while faunal records are mainly found under well-oxidized and high-energy conditions reflecting different depositional facies, and this prevents detailed paleoecological comparisons. On the other hand, the age control of terrestrial faunal and floral data is often poor (e.g., Kovar-Eder 2003) and complicates temporal comparisons if they are not intercalated with marine deposits, or magnetostratigraphically or radiometrically unmeasurable deposits (Strömberg et al. 2007). As mentioned above, the terrestrial successions of the Cappadocia region include faunal and floral data comparable within the same successions and are radiometrically well dated (e.g., Antoine et al. 2012).

Fig. 1
figure1

a Neogene and Quaternary volcanic provinces of Turkey (modified from Piper et al. 2013). b Annual precipitation map of Turkey (modified from Atalay 1983). c Location map of the study area

In this study, first, we aimed to understand the processes and unveil the paleoenvironments and paleoclimates behind the formation of current landscape (Fig. 1c) in the Cappadocia region by an integrated approach. For this aim, we focused on the sedimentary units, which include mammal and pollen fossil data, intercalated with volcanic and volcanoclastic units, and studied their facies. Then, we evaluated our results with previously published paleontological (faunal and floral) data to reconstruct the paleoenvironments of the Cappadocia Volcanic Province during the Neogene and Quaternary periods and discussed within global and regional framework. Second, by the integration of faunal, floral, and radiometric data, we aimed to outline the stratigraphic positions of the terrestrial deposits in the Cappadocia region, some of them previously interpreted mainly based on lithostratigraphic similarities with other regions and reveals often inaccurate (e.g., Şen 2018).

Geological setting

During the Neogene and Quaternary periods, eastern Mediterranean region witnessed significant tectonic reorganization and volcanic activities mainly as a result of convergence and following collision between the Arabian and Eurasian plates. The northward motion of the Arabian and African plates followed by the gradual uplift of the Anatolian platelet and the retreat of the Neotehys Ocean (e.g., Şengör and Kidd 1979; Şengör and Yılmaz 1981; Şengör et al. 2019). Paleogeographic analyses suggest that the main faunal and floral changes in Anatolia were mainly related to these closing of the southern branch of Neotethys ocean and topographic uplift processes and the establishment of land bridges among the Anatolia, Arabia, and Asia plates mainly during the Neogene (e.g., Steininger and Rögl 1984; Görür et al. 1995; Şen et al. 1998, 2003, 2019; Şen 2013; Kazancı et al. 1999, 2005; Rögl 1999; Saraç 2003, 2012; Koufos et al. 2005; Antoine and Saraç 2005; Koufos 2006; Ozaner and Saraç 2006; Strömberg et al. 2007; Alçiçek 2010; Yavuz-Işık et al. 2011; Métais et al. 2016).

Within this scene, the Cappadocia region recorded the traces of important faunal and floral diversity related to paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic history and regional biogeographic connections during the development of Central Anatolian orogenic plateau. This plateau is represented by a semi-arid (Fig. 1b) ~ 350 km wide and 1–1.5 km high region, surrounded by the Tauride and Pontide mountain ranges in the south and north, respectively, and is dominated by normal and strike-slip faults, and localized volcanism with a wide-ranging composition (e.g., Yıldırım et al. 2011; Schildgen et al. 2012, 2014; Lüdecke et al. 2013; Çiner et al. 2015b; Gürbüz and Kazancı 2015; Meijers et al. 2018; Kuzucuoğlu et al. 2019a). In and around the Cappadocia region, there are also numerous sedimentary basins (e.g., Lake Tuz, Erciyes, Derinkuyu, Dikme basins) developed during the Neogene and Quaternary periods with various size and type (e.g., Erol 1969; Toprak and Kaymakçı 1995; Görür et al. 1998; Koçyiğit and Erol 2001; Gürer and Aldanmaz 2002; Ocakoğlu 2002, 2004; Gürbüz and Kazancı 2014, 2015; Özsayın et al. 2019).

The region is generally known as the Cappadocia Volcanic Province because of its volcanoes (e.g., Mt. Hasan, Mt. Erciyes), calderas, cinder cones, extensive lava flows, and widespread volcanoclastic units ranging between middle Miocene and Quaternary in age (e.g., Pasquarè et al. 1988; Ercan et al. 1992; Froger et al. 1998; Türkecan 2015). While the early products of the volcanism have calc-alkaline compositions, later units represent bimodal and alkaline compositions (e.g., Ercan 1986; Dilek et al. 1999). Volcanism in the region has been mainly developed and shaped by the extensional and strike-slip tectonics (e.g., Dhont et al. 1999; Toprak 1998). Today, the Tuz Gölü Fault Zone in the west, the Central Anatolian Fault Zone, and Ecemiş Fault Zone in the east and other various strike-slip faults (e.g., Salanda Fault Zone, Avanos Fault Zone) to the north are defined as active faults surrounding the region (Fig. 2a) (e.g., Toprak and Göncüoğlu 1993; Dirik and Göncüoğlu 1996; Toprak 1996; Tatar et al. 2000; Koçyiğit and Erol 2001; Dirik 2001; Piper et al. 2002, 2013; Koçyiğit 2003; Genç and Yürür 2010; Kürçer and Gökten 2014; Emre et al. 2013; Özsayın et al. 2013; Yıldırım 2014; Yıldırım et al. 2016; Sarıkaya et al. 2015b; Koçyiğit and Doğan 2016; Kuzucuoğlu et al. 2019b).

Fig. 2
figure2

a Geological age map, and b lithological map of the study area (derived and modified from MTA 2002). Active faults are after Emre et al. (2013)

The Neogene and Quaternary sedimentary, volcanic and volcanoclastic units of the Cappadocia Volcanic Province unconformably overlie a basement consisting of the pre-Cambrian-Mesozoic metamorphic and magmatic rocks of the Central Anatolian Crystalline Complex (e.g., Kırşehir Massif, Niğde Massif), and Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene ophiolitic, magmatic, and sedimentary rocks (Fig. 2b) (e.g., Atabey et al. 1987; Schumacher et al. 1990; Göncüoğlu et al. 1991; Toprak 1996; Dilek et al. 1999; Dönmez et al. 2003). Those pre-Neogene units are unconformably overlain by the Neogene and Quaternary terrestrial successions that are the focus of this study (e.g., Atabey 1989; Akgün et al. 1995; Dönmez et al. 2003; Göz et al. 2014) (Fig. 3). While the early Neogene sequence predominantly represented by fluvial sedimentary units, it also includes some volcanic and volcanoclastic levels, which were radiometrically dated to latest early Miocene (16.5 Ma—Hasancı volcanites) and middle Miocene (~ 13.5 Ma—Kızılırmak and Keçikalesi volcanites, and Develi tuff) (Dönmez et al. 2003). This succession is overlain by the late Miocene–Pliocene fluvio-lacustrine sequence with a regional angular unconformity (Fig. 3). Different from the underlying units, the Mio-Pliocene succession is dominated by multi-coloured ignimbrite units making the fame of the Cappadocia Volcanic Province as an attractive touristic destination. Today, this sequence is also geologically important as a result of its high frequency and precisely dated levels (Fig. 3; e.g., Aydar et al. 2012), which motivate us to outline the paleoenvironments of the region through intercalated sedimentary and paleontological data. This tilted to open-folded sequence is overlain by Quaternary fluvial and lacustrine sediments and volcanic-volcanoclastic rocks, mainly deposited within large sedimentary basins controlled by active faults and recent riverbeds (Fig. 2).

Fig. 3
figure3

Generalized stratigraphic column section of the Cappadocia region (synthesized mainly after Akgün et al. 1995; Dönmez et al. 2003; Aydar et al. 2013). Single-asterisk Ar/Ar and U/Pb ages are from Aydar et al. (2012, 2013), double-asterisk U/Th ages are from Schmitt et al. (2014), triple-asterisk Ar/Ar age is from Doğan (2011); quadruple-asterisk K/Ar age is from Dönmez et al. (2003)

Methods

This study involves Neogene and Quaternary sedimentary lithofacies data, and published records of paleontological data based on mammal and pollen fossils (Fig. 4) in the sedimentary levels among the well-dated volcanic and volcanoclastic successions from various sites of the Cappadocia Volcanic Province (Fig. 3). The mentioned Neogene and Quaternary sedimentary units were investigated under three packages as middle Miocene, late Miocene–Pliocene, and Quaternary successions. We only focused on sedimentary lithofacies, and did not consider volcanoclastic levels in this study. We described 9 lithofacies deposited in 3 environments for the early Neogene, 12 lithofacies deposited in 4 environments for the late Neogene, and 8 lithofacies deposited in 4 environments for the Quaternary units according to measured sequence sections at 15 locations mainly in and around the mammal and pollen bearing sections of previous studies used in this study (Fig. 5). Mammal fossil data are based on fauna described by Şenyürek (1960), Pasquarè (1968), Tekkaya (1974), Sickenberg et al. (1975), Yalçınlar (1983), Saraç (2003), Antoine et al. (2012), Başoğlu (2016) and Erdal et al. (2019). Faunal assemblages of the Neogene and Quaternary periods in the Cappadocia region comprise Perissodactyla, Artiodactyla, Proboscidae, Carnivora, Rodentia, Insectivora, and Lagomorpha samples from 44 locations in Aksaray, Niğde, Nevşehir, Kırşehir, and Kayseri provinces (Fig. 4). Pollen data used here to understand the paleovegetation and interpret the paleoclimate during the same periods are based on flora from Bottema et al. (1993–1994), Akgün et al. (1995), Roberts et al. (2001, 2011), Yavuz-Işık and Toprak (2010), Şenkul and Doğan (2018) and Şenkul et al. (2018a, b). Those data collected from 7 sections and 4 boreholes are located in Niğde, Nevşehir, Kırşehir, and Kayseri provinces (Fig. 4). Based on the results of pollen spectra of previous studies, we prepared pollen diagrams for mentioned sections and boreholes to understand paleoclimatic alternations efficiently (e.g., Popescu 2006; Jiménez-Moreno et al. 2005, 2007). Finally, we integrated our sedimentary facies data with available mammal fossil and palynology data sets to interpret and reconstruct paleoenvironments of the Cappadocia region during the Neogene and Quaternary.

Fig. 4
figure4

Biostratigraphic ranges for mammal (red bars) and pollen (green bars) fossil data from the Cappadocia region as suggested by studies discussed in the text

Fig. 5
figure5

Spatial distributions of measured sequences for facies data in this study (a) and paleontological data [b—mammal fossil locations presented in Fig. 10, c—pollen fossil locations presented in Fig. 11, and d—archaeological sites located in the Cappadocia region (data are from TAY Project)]

Sedimentary facies data

Middle Miocene succession

Middle Miocene sedimentary units exposed particularly to the north and south are represented by grey- and red-coloured thick-medium bedded conglomerate, sandstone, mudstone, and gypsum intercalations (Atabey et al. 1987). This succession overlies the Hasancı volcanics (16.5 ± 1.2 Ma; Fig. 3) and Eocene sedimentary units, and is unconformably overlain by the late Miocene–Pliocene succession (Dönmez et al. 2003). A maximum sequence thickness of ~ 300 m was measured to the northern part of the Kızılırmak River in Ayhan village by Akgün et al. (1995). Observed lithofacies of the middle Miocene sequence in the Avcıköy, Ayhan, and Tuzköy villages (Figs. 5a, 6) are represented in Table 1 and Fig. 6a, and related depositional environments are explained below.

Fig. 6
figure6

Lithofacies variations in measured sequence sections. a Middle Miocene measured sequences (Mms-1-4), b late Miocene–Pliocene measured sequences (Pms-1-5), and c Quaternary measured sequences (Qms-1-6). Please see Fig. 5a for locations

Table 1 Lithofacies and depositional environments in the middle Miocene succession

Facies and depositional environments

Alluvial fan Alluvial fan deposits are represented by matrix-supported massive conglomerates (Fm1) (Table 1, Fig. 6a). These brown-coloured deposits are medium-to-well cemented, and consist of moderately-to-poorly-sorted and sub-rounded pebble and block sized materials representing debris flow products (e.g., Miall 1996) deposited in an alluvial fan environment.

Braided river This environment consists of a variety of lithofacies in different colours and characteristics including clast-supported and grey-coloured planar cross-bedded sandstone (Fm2), reddish brown-coloured gravelly sandstone (Fm3), yellowish brown-coloured sandstone (Fm4), yellowish and reddish brown-coloured matrix-supported conglomerate (Fm5), and red-coloured mudstone (Fm6) (Table 1, Fig. 6a). Fm2 lithofacies is represented by medium-to-well cemented, medium-thick large-scale planar cross-bedded, non-to-normal-graded conglomerates comprising medium-sorted and medium-rounded clasts. This facies represents channel deposits (e.g., Miall 1977). It is alternated with Fm3 lithofacies in the field, which consists of well-cemented, planar, or wedge-shaped gravelly sandstones (Fig. 6a). Clasts of Fm3 are sub-angular and sub-rounded fine-to-medium-grained materials. This lithofacies shows deposition during lateral movement of small-scale channels (e.g., Basilici 1997). Fm4 lithofacies is different from the previous sandstone with its loose-cemented structure. It represents low-angle large-scaled planar cross-bedded medium-coarse-grained sandstones deposited by lateral growth of river channels (e.g., Miall 1977). Another matrix-supported conglomerate in the succession is represented by the Fm5 lithofacies. However, this well-cemented sandy conglomerate is wedge-shaped cross-bedded in form (Fig. 7). It is comprised of medium-fine-rounded clasts and represents deposition as laterally migrating channel products (e.g., Rust 1978). Fm6 represents the mudstones in the succession that are medium-to-massive-bedded. Cross-laminated levels can also be observed as internal structures. This red-coloured lithofacies was deposited as floodplain deposit.

Fig. 7
figure7

Lithofacies photos from the middle Miocene succession

Lacustrine This environment is represented by beige-coloured marls (Fm7), coal (Fm8), and gypsum (Fm9) levels towards the upper part of the succession, and is relatively thinner than the braided river system deposits in the succession (Figs. 3, 6a). Fm8 lithofacies can be seen in colour alternations of greenish, purplish, yellowish, and pinkish form because of source materials and sedimentation depths. This lithofacies represents deposition mainly in a shallow lake environment (e.g., Platt and Wright 1991). Its interbedded lignite and gypsum levels also indicate deposition in swamp areas probably in shore and/or floodplain environments and in mud flats related to lacustrine environment (e.g., Warren 1986).

Late Miocene–Pliocene succession

Late Miocene–Pliocene units unconformably overlie the middle Miocene deposits and are exposed in a wide area mainly in the centre of the Cappadocia Volcanic Province (Fig. 2). This succession rests in a subhorizontal position and comprises sedimentary rocks interbedded with thick layers of volcanic and volcanoclastic rocks (Figs. 3, 6b). Lithological features mainly consist of white-, yellow-, and green-coloured claystone, marl, siltstone, gypsum levels, sandstone, conglomerate, clayey limestones occasionally including coal levels, which are intercalated with thick ignimbrites, basaltic lava, pyroclastics, and paleosol levels (e.g., Dönmez et al. 2003). Because of tuffaceous character of some sandstones and claystones, discrimination of sedimentary and volcanoclastic units is not always easy in the field (Fig. 8). In our lithofacies, descriptions in the succession paleosol (and calcrete) levels (Fig. 8) were excluded, which were differentiated in the late Miocene–Pliocene succession by previous researchers under pedogenic descriptions (e.g., Göz et al. 2014). However, we determined 12 lithofacies interpreted within 4 depositional environments in the succession detailed below (Table 2, Fig. 6b).

Fig. 8
figure8

Lithofacies photos from the late Miocene–Pliocene succession

Table 2 Lithofacies and depositional environments in the late Miocene–Pliocene succession

Facies and depositional environments

Alluvial fan Matrix-supported massive conglomerates (Fp1), gravelly sandstone (Fp2), and thick-massive-bedded mudstones (Fp3) constitute this environment (Table 2, Fig. 6b). Fp1 lithofacies is represented by light brown-coloured conglomerates with poorly-sorted, rounded-semi-rounded granule-to-boulder sized clasts indicating debris flow processes (e.g., Miall 1996). Fp1 lithofacies is generally intercalated with Fp2 formed as light brown-coloured, medium-thick-bedded sandstones deposited as sheet-flood deposits (e.g., Rust 1978; Miall 1996). Fp3 lithofacies consists of brown-coloured, thick-massive-bedded mudstones including sand and gravel beds. This lithofacies indicates sedimentation in a distal fan and/or floodplain environment (e.g., Miall 1996).

Braided river Aforementioned thick-massive-bedded mudstones (Fp3), clast-supported conglomerates (Fp4), planar cross-bedded conglomerates (Fp5), and yellowish, greenish, and greyish sandstones (Fp6) represent this environment (Fig. 6b). While Fp4 lithofacies is clast-supported, Fp5 lithofacies is made up of matrix-supported conglomerates (Fig. 8). Grey- and light brown-coloured Fp4 lithofacies is thick-massive-bedded in lenticular geometry and consists of sub-square/sub-rounded and well-washed pebble-to-boulder sized clasts, most probably transported by sudden heavy flows (e.g., Morrison and Hein 1987). Brown-, yellow-, and greenish grey-coloured Fp5 and Fp6 lithofacies are formed by large-scale planar cross-bedded, and represent channels and their lateral growth deposits (Fig. 8) (e.g., Miall 1977; Rust 1978).

Fan delta Lithofacies representing this environment consist of trough cross-bedded sandy conglomerates (Fp7) and light brown- or beige-coloured, parallel-bedded, matrix-supported pebbly sandstones (Fp8) (Fig. 6b). Fp7 lithofacies is clast-supported, and includes sub-rounded, sub-angular and medium-coarse sized grains mainly represented by basaltic clasts. This facies might represent channel deposits reaching lacustrine environment like Fp8 lithofacies, which is also generally observed intercalating with lacustrine marls and might be deposited as sheet-flood deposits in a fan delta environment (e.g., Rust 1978; Miall 1996).

Lacustrine Shale (Fp9), beige-coloured marl (Fp10), clayey limestone (Fp11), and medium-thick-bedded limestone (Fp12) lithofacies make up this environment. Fp9 lithofacies are seen in blackish grey and dark brownish colours probably indicating its bituminous character, and intercalating with Fp10 lithofacies (Figs. 6b, 8). The shales might be deposited in coastal plain of a lacustrine environment (e.g., Warren 1986). Except this dark coloured lithofacies, the remaining lacustrine lithofacies are represented by beige colour. Marls (Fp10) are thick-massive-bedded, loosely cemented, and scattered clayey characters indicating sedimentation in a shallow lake environment (e.g., Platt and Wright 1991). Fp11 lithofacies includes medium-thick bedded clayey limestones alternated with fossiliferous marls and limestones, and indicates deposition relatively in deeper lacustrine environment (e.g., Valero-Garcés and Gierlowski-Kordesch 1994). Fp12 lithofacies is also known as “Kışladağ limestone” (Fig. 3) and is located on the upper level of the succession. This lithofacies consists predominantly of micritic limestones with pores that filled with sparitic carbonates (Temel 1992), and includes a few ostracod and gastropod forms (Dönmez et al. 2003). Its general characteristics indicate deposition in a freshwater lake environment (e.g., Platt and Wright 1991). In addition, some authors also described diatomite levels in the late Miocene–Pliocene succession, which indicate shallow lake environment (e.g., Gürel and Yıldız 2007; Göz et al. 2014; Yıldız et al. 2017).

Quaternary deposits

These are mainly recognized in recent basins generally controlled by active tectonics (i.e., the Derinkuyu, Erciyes, and Kayseri basins), river channels (i.e., Kızılırmak River drainage channel beds and terraces), and a few crater/maar and sinkhole lakes (i.e., Lake Nar, Lake Mucur) and other lake and swamp areas (i.e., Lake Tuzla, Lake Engir, Sultansazlığı marsh) (Figs. 1, 3b). Quaternary units unconformably overly the older successions (Fig. 3) and cannot be observed in any regular thick sequence; thus, described lithofacies in this study belong to observation made mostly along the road cuts, in the sand-pebble quarries, river beds, and sequences exposed in fluvial valleys (Fig. 9). Eight lithofacies described in this study are interpreted within four depositional environments (Table 3, Fig. 6c). Glacial deposits consisting of different types of moraines and outwash deposits in mountains surrounding the Cappadocia region (i.e., Erciyes Volcano, Mount Aladağlar; Fig. 1c), (e.g., Erinç 1952; Dilek et al. 1999; Sarıkaya et al. 2009; Zreda et al. 2011), were not described in our study.

Fig. 9
figure9

Lithofacies photos from the Quaternary deposits

Table 3 Lithofacies and depositional environments in the Quaternary deposits

Facies and depositional environments

Alluvial fan This environment is represented by well-cemented clast-supported conglomerates (Fq1), tabular cross-bedded gravelly sandstones (Fq2), and matrix-supported massive gravels (Fq3). Fq1 lithofacies consists of well-cemented, large-scale planar cross-bedded, unsorted, semi-angular, clast-supported massive conglomerates deposited by grain flow process (e.g., Miall 1996). Fq2 lithofacies includes mud-supported gravelly sandstones in lenticular forms deposited as sheet-flood products (e.g., Karabıyıkoğlu 2003). Fq3 lithofacies is loose-cemented, poorly-sorted massive gravels comprised of angular/sub-angular clasts deposited by debris flows (Fig. 9) (e.g., Miall 1996). Alluvial fan deposits are mainly located along the faulted mountain fronts surrounding the Quaternary basins (e.g., the Derinkuyu, Erciyes, and Kayseri basins) and volcanic mountains in the Cappadocia region (Figs. 1c, 2), and mainly consist of reworked pyroclastic materials eroded from the vicinity (Fig. 6c).

Braided river Wedge-shaped cross-bedded gravels (Fq4), trough cross-bedded gravelly sands (Fq5), brown-coloured mudstones (Fq6), and matrix-supported gravels (Fq3) described above constitute this environment (Fig. 9). Fq4 lithofacies consists of wedge-shaped cross-bedded, moderately–poorly-sorted, granule-to-cobble sized clasts mainly represented in different terraces of the Kızılırmak River. Fq5 lithofacies is also observable in the terrace deposits of the Kızılırmak River and represented by trough cross-bedded gravelly sands sometimes alternated with Fq4 lithofacies (Fig. 6c). Fq6 lithofacies is comprised of light and reddish brown-coloured, thin-medium-bedded or lenticular mudstones including sand and silt laminates deposited in floodplains (e.g., Miall 1996).

Lacustrine This environment includes light brown-coloured muds (Fq7) still depositing in aqueous environments in the region such as Sultansazlığı (reeds) marsh, and lakes Nar, Tuzla, and Engir. The colour of this lithofacies can show variations according to organic material content and surrounding source area.

Travertine There are many travertine (Fq8) formations developed during the late Pleistocene–Holocene as a result of active tectonics in different locations in the study area (e.g., Avcıköy, Gümüşkent, Avanos, Sarıhıdır, and Karadağ; Koçyiğit and Doğan 2016 for details). Active faults that caused the development of these formations are mainly strike-slip faults. These rocks are fissure-ridge type formations and comprised of very porous, banded, and massive carbonate structures (Koçyiğit and Doğan 2016).

Paleontological data

Mammal fossils

Earliest mammal fossil record in the study area belongs to middle Miocene and include Rodentia, Insectivora, and Lagomorpha collected from Kırşehir and Kayseri provinces, which determine the northern and southern margins of the Cappadocia Volcanic Province, respectively (Fig. 10). Rodents are divers represented by Cricetidae (Cricetodon tobieni, Karydomys, Megacricetodon, Democricetodon), Myocricetodontinae, Sciuridae, Spalacidae (Pliospalax), and Ctenodactylidae (Sayimys) in the Kırşehir sections. Insectivora as Erinaceidae and Talpidae (Talpinae) and Lagomorpha have also been recorded in floodplain and lacustrine deposits both in the northern and southern sites of the study area (e.g., Saraç 2003).

Fig. 10
figure10

Mammal fossil variations determined in the Cappadocia region (data are from Şenyürek 1960; Pasquarè 1968; Tekkaya 1974; Sickenberg et al. 1975; Yalçınlar 1983; Saraç 2003; Antoine et al. 2012; Başoğlu 2016; and Erdal et al. 2019)

The late Miocene–Pliocene succession is very important with its diverse mammal fauna preserved in a volcano-sedimentary sequence including representatives of the orders Perissodactyla, Artiodactyla, Prosbcidea, Carnivora, Rodentia, and Insectivora, particularly in Nevşehir and Kayseri provinces (Fig. 10). Large mammals like equids (Hipparion gracile, Hipparion cf. mediterraneum, Hipparion matthewi, and Hipparion sp.), rhinos (Ceraththerium neumayri, Chilotherium), bovids (Tragocerus, Gazella, Gazallinae, Antilopinae, Bovidae), giraffids (Halladotherium, Palaeotragus, Samotherium majori, Giraffidae), suids (Microstonyx erymanthius, Dicoryphochoerus, Suidae), elephants (Choerolophodon pentelici, Gomphotheriidae, Proboscidea), and carnivores (Ictitherium, Adcrocuta eximia) are common almost in every location in the region (Şenyürek 1960; Pasquarè 1968; Tekkaya 1974; Sickenberg et al. 1975; Yalçınlar 1983; Saraç 2003; Antoine et al. 2012; Başoğlu 2016). On the other hand, small forms of carnivores (Mustelidae), and other small mammals like rodents (Castoridae, Occitanomys cf. brailloni, Apodemus, Byzantinia, Arvicolinae, Mimomys, Promimomys), and insectivores (Soricidae) are reported mainly in floodplain and lacustrine deposits (e.g., Saraç 2003 and references therein).

The Quaternary period of the Cappadocia region is also very important because of its cultural geology that particularly focused by geoarcheological surveys in recent years. In addition to previously determined two locations at Kırşehir-Yeşilyurt and Nevşehir-Acıgöl, a wealth of fauna has been recently determined in the Tepecik/Çiftlik archaeological site at Niğde (Figs. 5b, 10). On the other hand, such archaeological sites in the region consist of Holocene mammal fauna almost wholly, except the Kırşehir–Yeşilyurt location that includes an ochotonoid dated to Pleistocene (Fig. 10) (MNQ1; Saraç 2003). Holocene remains from the famous Acıgöl location at Nevşehir represented by Cervus elaphus (Saraç 2003), and a Rodentia fauna including Mus cf. musculus, Mesocricetus brandti, Microtus cf. arvalis, Arvicola cf. amphibious, Spermophilus xanthoprymnus, and Spalax xanthodon (Erdal et al. 2019) described in Tepecik/Çiftlik site at Niğde.

Palynology

The palynological data from the middle Miocene succession are obtained from the localities to the north of the study area, within the Kırşehir province (Fig. 5c). The palynoflora identified in the Kızılöz, Avcıköy, and Tuzköy sequences are predominated by broad-leaved and coniferous trees, namely Pinus, Abies, Quercus, Castanea, Fagaceae, Juglandaceae, Pseudotsuga, Carpinus, Ulmus, Carya, Engelhardia, Lauraceae, Alnus, Betula, Platanus/Salix, Cupressaceae, Taxodium, Nyssa together with minor amounts of Myrica, Ephedra, Sambucus, Cyrillaceae, Apiaceae, Gramineae, Lemnaceae, and Chenopodiaceae. This flora is assigned to an ecotone between broad-leaved evergreen and mixed mesophytic forests (Akgün et al. 1995; Kayseri-Özer 2017).

The late Miocene–Pliocene sedimentary units, which are interbedded with volcanic and volcanoclastic rocks of Cappadocia region, include a palynoflora dominated by herbs, mainly Amaranthaceae/Chenopodiaceae, Artemisia and Asteraceae, together with Caryophyllaceae, Apiceae, Poaceae, Ranunculaceae, Centaurea, Pinus, Quercus, Salix, Castanea/Castanopsis, Carpinus orientalis, Juglans, Cedrus, Ulmus/Zelkova, and Alnus. The identified pollen spectra reveal the existence of a steppe vegetation dominated by Amaranthaceae/Chenopodiaceae and Artemisia in late Miocene (Akdağ and Bayramhacılı sequences) and steppe vegetation dominated by Asteracea/Asteroideae in early Pliocene (Güzelöz sequence) (Yavuz-Işık and Toprak 2010) (Fig. 11).

Fig. 11
figure11

Pollen diagrams for selected taxa determined in the Cappadocia region [data derived from Akgün et al. (1995), Roberts et al. (2001, 2011), Yavuz-Işık and Toprak (2010), Şenkul and Doğan (2018) and Şenkul et al. (2018a, b)]. Green bars indicate age ranges of data. AP Arboreal pollen, Chen Chenopodiaceae/Amaranthaceae, Arte Artemisia, Aster Asteraceae, Poa Poaceae

Although palynological data are missing in Pleistocene deposits, there are high-resolution and robustly dated palynological studies in the Holocene of the Eski Acıgöl and Lake Nar sequences (Figs. 5c, 11). The vegetation changed from Poaceae-Quercus-Pistachia parkland to grass-steppe, dominated by Rumex and a gradual increase of arboreal species Juniperus and Pistachia, through early Holocene in the Eski Acıgöl sequence, while late Holocene is characterized by an increase in steppic herbs, notably Artemisia, Asteracae, and Chenopodiaceae and Pinus as the arboreal taxon (Roberts et al. 2001) (Fig. 11). The early Holocene palynoflora of Lake Nar sequence is dominated by steppic herbs of Artemisia and Chenopodiaceae together with considerable amounts of Poaceae, Quercus, and Pistachia (Roberts et al. 2016).

To the northeast of the study area, in the Kayseri province Şenkul et al. (2018a, b) studied Holocene sequences in Lake Tuzla and Lake Engir (Fig. 11). The mid-late Holocene is characterized by competition between two vegetation components, namely arboreal taxa (mainly Pinus, Quercus) and non-arboreal taxa (mainly Artemisia, Amaranthaceae, Poaceae) in Lake Tuzla sequence (Fig. 11). The vegetation was dominated by steppe during late Holocene around Lake Tuzla (Şenkul et al. 2018a). Palynological analyses revealed the presence of several alternating wet and dry periods in late Holocene from Lake Engir sequence (Şenkul et al. 2018b). Wet periods are characterized by high arboreal pollen, Ranunculus type and Lactuceae, while dry periods are characterized by high non-arboreal pollen especially Artemisia and Chenopodiaceae. The intense agricultural activities must also be taken into account while assessing late Holocene palynological data in the Cappadocia region, which was anthropogenically very active (Fig. 5d), as in the rest of Anatolia (e.g., the Beyşehir Occupation Phase; van Zeist et al. 1975; Bottema et al. 1986; Bottema and Woldring 1990; Roberts 1990, 2015; Eastwood et al. 1998; Şenkul and Doğan 2018).

Data analyses and discussion

This study attempts to integrate new sedimentological data and previously reported paleontological data from the fluvio-lacustrine deposits with the radiometrically well-studied volcanic and volcanoclastic units from various sites in the Cappadocia region. In addition to sedimentary facies data, temporal distribution of mammal and pollen fossil data is used to consolidate the paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic conditions during the development of the Cappadocia Volcanic Province and interpret the paleoenvironments during the Neogene and Quaternary periods (Fig. 12).

Fig. 12
figure12

Paleoenvironmental reconstructions for the Neogene and Quaternary periods of the Cappadocia region based on sedimentary, volcanological age, mammal fossil, and palynological data

Middle Miocene

Middle Miocene deposition commenced mainly with the formation of alluvial fan and braided river systems in the study area. Our facies analyses indicate the dominance of channel deposits (Table 1 and Fig. 6a) in the sequence representing dynamic sedimentation under high energetic conditions most likely controlled by regional tectonics that caused relief changes in the surrounding topography. Earlier activity on the Ecemiş Fault of the Central Anatolian Fault Zone was proposed as the end of early Miocene by some researchers (e.g., Karadenizli et al. 2016) that coincide with this period. Colour variations of the mentioned fluvial deposits in the succession represent deposition under humid and warm climatic conditions. Upwards of the sequence, while the lacustrine and coal formations indicate humid and temperate climate, gypsum deposits might indicate transition into drier conditions.

The available middle Miocene mammal fauna are represented by small forms (i.e., Rodentia, Insectivora and Lagomorpha; Fig. 10) reported in red-coloured mudstones and beige-coloured marls indicating floodplain and lakeshore environments (Table 1) (e.g., Saraç 2003). Such small fauna identified in these facies represent forest biotope living in wet and wooded environments, such as Cricetodon and Democricetodon (e.g., van de Weerd and Daams 1978; Kälin 1999; Rummel 1999; Nargolwalla 2009).

The middle Miocene palynoflora described in Kızılöz, Avcıköy, and Tuzköy locations in the Kırşehir province, to the north of the study area, predominantly consists of deciduous forest elements (e.g., Quercus, Castanea, Carpinus, and Alnus). Whereas the percentages of the arboreal pollen, Chenopodiaceae/Amaranthaceae, Asteraceae, and Poaceae forms (Fig. 11) in the Kızılöz and Tuzköy sections indicate a humid-temperate climatic condition; abundances of the same forms in the Avcıköy section suggest humid but relatively cool conditions (Akgün et al. 1995). This scene is consistent with the general view of Western and Central Anatolia during this time, which was represented by broad-leaved evergreen and mixed mesophytic forests and an ecotone between these forest types (Kayseri-Özer 2017).

According to the above-mentioned mammal fauna, Saraç (2003) suggests early Miocene (MN4) for the age of the succession to the north of the region. However, Akgün et al. (1995) propose middle Miocene according to palynomorph content for the same part of the sequence. Age of 16.5 ± 1.2 Ma for the Hasancı volcanics provided by Dönmez et al. (2003) (Fig. 3) make the age problem clearer by indicating a middle Miocene (or latest early Miocene/late Burdigalian) age for the base of the succession. Thus, the terrestrial deposits that were mainly mapped as Oligocene and/or Oligocene-early Miocene in earlier studies (e.g., Atabey et al. 1987; Atabey 1989; MTA 2002) should have been deposited mainly during middle Miocene as suggested by Akgün et al. (1995). On the other hand, Ocakoğlu (2004) stated that stratigraphically equivalent of the mentioned succession in the east of the Cappadocia region contains mammalian fossils indicating a middle Miocene age. In this framework, we also evaluated the age of the first Neogene package in the Cappadocia Volcanic Province as middle Miocene.

Gypsum and lignite formations, small mammal fauna, and palynoflora data in the floodplain and lacustrine facies indicate a warm, humid subtropical climate with a forested landscape with volcanic eruptions both in the north (i.e., Hasancı volcanism—16.5 ± 1.2 Ma, Kızılırmak volcanism—14.1 ± 0.3 to 12.3 ± 0.3 Ma; Dönmez et al. 2003) and in the south (i.e. Keçikalesi volcanism—13.7 to 12.4 ± 0.6; Besang et al. 1977; Dönmez et al. 2003) of the Cappadocia region (Fig. 12). Such a synchronised regional volcanic activity and basin development in the north (e.g., Akgün et al. 1995; Dönmez et al. 2003), and in the east and south (e.g., Ocakoğlu 2002, 2004) of the Cappadocia region were related to regional tectonics driven by the collision process between the Arabian and Eurasian plates in the east.

The late Burdigalian and early Langhian time interval was the warmest period in the Miocene that is globally known as ‘middle Miocene Climatic Optimum’ (e.g., Zachos et al. 2001; Utescher et al. 2009). During this time, a mid-latitude warming of about 6 °C relative to the present occurred (Flower and Kennett 1994), and humid and warm climatic conditions were recorded in most regions in Europe (Bruch et al. 2004; Utescher et al. 2009), and in Anatolia (e.g., Akgün et al. 2007; Kayseri and Akgün 2010; Kayseri-Özer et al. 2014; Kayseri-Özer 2017). This warming decreased and a trend towards cooler conditions occurred in Serravallian and early Tortonian (e.g., Zachos et al. 2001), which caused palaeovegetational differentiations and changes in temperature values (e.g., Kayseri-Özer 2013). To the north of the Cappadocia region, the Kırşehir palynomorph assemblages (i.e., Avcıköy, Ayhan-1 and 2, and Tuzköy sections in Akgün et al. 1995; Figs. 3, 5c, 11) indicate a Serravallian–Tortonian interval (e.g., Kayseri-Özer 2017) with subtropical climatic conditions and increasing of relatively cooler conditions in consistent with this global scene, which eliminates the effect of regional factors on climate such as tectonics and volcanism.

Late Miocene–Pliocene

Late Miocene–Pliocene represents an important time interval not only in the Cappadocia region but also in the geology of Turkey. Approximately 10% of surface area of the country was covered with sedimentary, volcanic, and volcanoclastic rocks during this interval (e.g., MTA 2002). Such kinds of rocks also cover the majority of the Cappadocia region (Fig. 2a, b). The Cappadocia Volcanic Province reached its highest volcanic activity during this period represented by thick and widespread ignimbrites, ash falls, and lavas intercalated with the terrestrial deposits (Aydar et al. 2012). Different from the middle Miocene succession, most of the sedimentary levels among the volcanic materials are represented by lacustrine deposits indicating expanded lake formations in the region during late Miocene–Pliocene, most probably because of the ponding of streams by subsidence related to tectonics and volcanism in the region. On the other hand, there are paleosol (and related calcrete) formations in the succession considering groundwater fluctuations under semi-arid climatic conditions as in the cases in western Turkey (e.g., Alçiçek 2010).

During the late Miocene, large mammals like swamp-browser/savanna-grazer Hipparion (equids); mixed feeder/grazer Samotherium, open fauna Halladotherium and steppe/open fauna Palaeotragus (giraffids); savanna type Ceratotherium (rhinocerotids), and grassland Microstonyx (bovids) indicate an open and dry ecology (Bernor et al. 1996; Fortelius et al. 1996; Bernor and Armour-Chelu 1999; Gentry et al. 1999; Göhlich 1999; Heissig 1999; Hünermann 1999; Nargolwalla 2009). Castorid from the Pliocene part of the succession indicates a semi-aquatic paleoecology (e.g., Hugueney 1999; Nargolwalla 2009) consistent with brown-coloured mudstones representing floodplain environment to the south of the region in the Kiske location (Figs. 5b, 10; Saraç 2003).

During the Pliocene, the freshwater lake environment expanded and turned into a large carbonate rich lake covering the Cappadocia region. This carbonate level (i.e., the Kışladağ limestone) represents a widespread formation in Central Anatolia and is critical particularly to get solution to the “Pliocene problem” (Gürbüz and Kazancı 2017) in the geology of Turkey, which is very important to differentiate the boundary between the Neogene and Quaternary successions and preparing the Quaternary geology maps of the country. In the Cappadocia region, the underlying Kızılkaya ignimbrite is dated to early Pliocene (5.19 Ma; Aydar et al. 2012), which indicates the precise formation age of the mentioned carbonate level to between 5.1 and 2.5 Ma (i.e. Valibaba ignimbrite—2.52 Ma; Aydar et al. 2012; Fig. 3). Just below the Kışladağ limestone, there are floodplain deposits in most of the outcrops. Saraç (2003) reported cricetid rodents (i.e., Arvicolinae and Mimomys sp.; Fig. 10) in these deposits. Yavuz-Işık and Toprak (2010) also studied the fine-grained shallow lake deposits just below the Kışladağ limestone and determined pollen spectra dominated by a steppe flora for Pliocene in the Güzelöz section.

A trend towards cooler climatic conditions was recorded globally in the Serravalian–Tortonian after the warm middle Miocene Climatic Optimum (e.g., Zachos et al. 2001). During this transition, the identified pollen fossil spectra in the Akdağ section varied comprising mixed palynoflora (Fig. 11) (after Akgün et al. 1995). During the Messinian, while marginal warm and dry climatic conditions became common throughout the Mediterranean (i.e., the Messinian Salinity Crisis; Hsü et al. 1977, Mascle and Mascle 2019), the floral content of the Bayramhacılı section was dominated by herbs indicating steppe vegetation (Fig. 11) (after Yavuz-Işık and Toprak 2010).

In the Mediterranean region, as demonstrated by palynological data, the early Pliocene was warmer and wetter than today’s climate, while the late Pliocene was cooler but still relatively humid (e.g., Fauquette et al. 1998; Jiménez-Moreno et al. 2010). However, it is known that this cooling trend in the Mediterranean region was interrupted by the mid-Pliocene warming (e.g., Utescher et al. 2009; Kayseri-Özer 2017). As mentioned above, in the Cappadocia region, palynomorph data from the Güzelöz section indicate a steppic environment predominantly with Asteraceae (Fig. 11; after Yavuz-Işık and Toprak 2010) as seen in the majority of Anatolia as increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation values from Zanclean to Piacenzian (e.g., Kayseri-Özer 2017) are consistent with the global trends (e.g., Zachos et al. 2001).

Quaternary

Widespread volcanism was still active during the Quaternary period as evidenced by the well-dated Acıgöl, Göllüdağ, and Hasandağı volcanics (e.g., Ercan 1986; Pastre et al. 1998; Gevrek and Kazancı 2000; Türkecan et al. 2004; Gençalioğlu-Kuşçu and Geneli 2010; Türkecan 2015). With respect to its importance for human history, still less-known part of the Cappadocia region is represented by its Pleistocene evolution. The sedimentary deposits of this time interval were largely deposited as alluvial fan and lacustrine deposits in the large sedimentary basins controlled by active faults in the region (the Derinkuyu, Erciyes, and Kayseri basins; Fig. 2b). Other smaller basins filled with Pleistocene sediments are mainly deposited as lacustrine or marsh environments in maars and calderas (e.g., the Acıgöl plain) and lava flow-dammed plains (e.g., the Çiftlik plain) (e.g., Türkecan et al. 2004). These sedimentary deposits are intercalated with volcanic and volcanoclastic materials like in the case of late Miocene–Pliocene lacustrine deposits. In addition to alluvial fan and lacustrine facies, fluvial sediments of the Kızılırmak River system are also very important. Terrace deposits of the Kızılırmak River represent well-dated morphosedimentary units including information on the tectonic uplift and climatic past of the region since the early Pleistocene (Doğan 2010; Çiner et al. 2015b). Current data suggest an incision process of the Kızılırmak River into the late Miocene–Pliocene succession with a ratio of 0.05–0.06 mm/year since the early Pleistocene (Doğan 2011; Çiner et al. 2015b). This also indicates the initiation of the Kızılırmak River in early Pleistocene (Doğan 2011) driven by the early activities of active faulting of the region. Travertine formations in the region are also related to such faulting activities in the region dated to late Pleistocene and late Pleistocene–Holocene time intervals (e.g., Karabacak 2007; Temiz et al. 2009). On the other hand, there are numerous archaeological sites since the Neolithic in the region (Fig. 5d) indicating its long cultural and environmental history during the Holocene, and their interactions through geoarchaeological studies (e.g., Woldring 2001; England et al. 2008; Slimak et al. 2008; Roberts et al. 2011; Asouti and Kabukçu 2014; Berger et al. 2016; Allcock 2017; Erturaç et al. 2017; Matessi et al. 2018). As a result of this, almost all data related to the Quaternary history of the region are derived from the Holocene records obtained mainly from lacustrine deposits reached through coring in lakes of different origins (tectonic and/or volcanic) and marshes (e.g., Roberts et al. 2001, 2011; Şenkul et al. 2018a, b, c; Tuncer et al. 2019, this issue).

In the Cappadocia region, the only Pleistocene mammal fossil finding is represented by an ochotonid to the north at Kırşehir-Yeşilyurt. Except a cervid finding (Cervus elaphus), which indicates a forested landscape in the Holocene, rest of mammal fossils described in the Quaternary deposits are mainly represented by small mammals (i.e., murids, cricetids, sciurids, spalacids; Fig. 10). Such forms point out to a dry steppe environment with sparse plant cover/perennial short grasses in the Tepecik/Çiftlik site at Niğde province during the Holocene, in addition to Arvicola cf. amphibious, which indicates streams and marsh-like vegetation cover (Erdal et al. 2019).

The modern climate in the Cappadocia region is characterized with hot and dry summers, and cold and wet winters with average values of 19 °C for summer temperature and for 0 °C winter at 1260 m asl (e.g., Çiner et al. 2015a). Today, except the microclimatic wetter areas localized in stream valleys that are vegetated with arboreal species, the Cappadocia Volcanic Province is predominantly covered with xerophytic plants and located in the Irano-Turanian flora region (e.g., Avcı 1993, 2013; Woldring 2001; Şenkul and Doğan 2013). Although this setting is similar with early Holocene records dominated by natural steppic herbs, vegetation in the Cappadocia region was affected by both the climatic and anthropogenic factors and varied significantly towards the middle and late Holocene (England 2006; Roberts et al. 2011, 2016; Şenkul and Köse 2018; Şenkul et al. 2018a, b and references there in), as in the surrounding region (e.g., Kuzucuoğlu et al. 2011).

Conclusions

The terrestrial deposition mainly represented by fluvial and lacustrine environments in the Cappadocia region was elaborated through facies analyses. Our sedimentary data indicate facies variations generally as the products of a dynamic environment throughout the Neogene. While the middle Miocene sequence represented by substantially braided river deposits expressing deposition in a relatively high energetic environment, the late Miocene–Pliocene units similarly indicate braided river environment in addition to vast amount of lacustrine deposits intercalated with high amount of volcanic materials. While the temporal variations of floral data in the Cappadocia region indicate that the middle Miocene time interval was represented by arboreal species, there is a general trend of decrease in tree covers since the early late Miocene, consistent with paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental data collected from surrounding regions in Turkey and broadly in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Faunal data also support this implication. Mammal fossils indicate herb-dominated relatively arid ecosystem since the late Miocene coincided with a dramatic faunal diversification, as a result of dramatic tectonic and volcanic activity related to the completing plate tectonic reconstruction of Anatolia. Through the Neogene and Quaternary periods of the Cappadocia region, the changes observed in sedimentary and paleontological data are mainly independent reflections of the same underlying tectonic and climatic events as suggested for the Mediterranean region (e.g., Griffin 2002).

Within this framework, as pointed out by Şen (2018), successions with well-calibrated radiometric dating that provide a detailed chronology could enlighten better the evolutionary history of several Cenozoic mammals and more generally could be used for calibration of terrestrial stages and ages, and the Neogene–Quaternary stratigraphy of the Cappadocia region has this exceptional potential and should be studied more in detail. Particularly, early Neogene and early Quaternary deposits should be controlled through sampling of more fauna and flora content considerably correlative with radiometrically dateable volcanic products of the Cappadocia region.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to chief editor Attila Çiner and guest editor Catherine Kuzucuoğlu for invitation to this special issue, and to Şevket Şen, Funda Akgün, and Attila Çiner for their constructive comments and suggestions that improved the manuscript significantly.

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Correspondence to Alper Gürbüz.

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Gürbüz, A., Saraç, G. & Yavuz, N. Paleoenvironments of the Cappadocia region during the Neogene and Quaternary, central Turkey. Med. Geosc. Rev. 1, 271–296 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42990-019-00016-2

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Keywords

  • Paleoenvironment
  • Fluvio-lacustrine deposits
  • Mammal fossils
  • Palynology
  • Paleoclimate
  • Volcanism
  • Central Anatolia