Devonian miospore assemblages from 16 sections in Saudi Arabia and North Africa are studied in order to characterize the palynostratigraphy of the northern margin of western Gondwana which remains poorly known in Saudi Arabia. The preliminary taxonomic work identifies more than 200 miospore species, including a lot of new species endemic to western Gondwana. Numerous species have still to be more precisely circumscribed because of their large morphological variability. Others show continuous intergrading morphological variation. The morphological variability of each taxon is one of the main problems in any palynological study. It is due to phylogenetic evolution, ontogeny (maturation of sporangia) and taphonomic factors.
Although the standard Devonian miospore zonations established in Euramerica (Richardson & McGregor, 1986; Streel et al., 1987) are commonly used in most of the palynological studies, they are not always easily recognizable in western Gondwanan localities because of the endemic nature of the assemblages. Therefore, a new local/regional biozonation based on the characteristics of the miospore assemblages described here was needed for a more accurate correlation. The new established biozonation consists of 9 assemblage zones, 8 interval zones and 2 acme zones, extending from the late Pragian to the late Givetian and possibly the early Frasnian. The new defined biozones are compared to other coeval biozones defined in the literature. Thanks to this new local/regional biozonation, reliable correlations are established between sections.
Numerous oilfields occur in the Devonian from western Gondwana. A biozonation based on the first down-hole occurrence of species is developed for oil exploration. Thanks to this type of biozonation, only the top of a biozone has to be reached in order to be identified. The use of this biozonation is facilitated by the choice of easily recognizable and common index species. This provisional downward biozonation consists of 8 interval zones. Although it seems relatively reliable by comparison with the previously defined upward biozonation, it needs to be further tested on other drilled sections.
The review of the Emsian-Givetian miospore assemblages from the literature allows to evaluate the provincialism of assemblages on a worldwide scale during this interval. Coefficient of similarity is calculated between palynofloras from northern Euramerica, southern Euramerica, eastern Gondwana, southwestern Gondwana and northwestern Gondwana. The resulting low values correspond to low to moderate similarity of miospore assemblages between the considered regions in the Emsian-Givetian interval. The provincialism may be explained by a latitudinal climatic gradient as no palaeogeographic barrier is known during this time interval. Indeed, both Euramerican and Gondwanan land masses were very close as soon as the earliest Devonian. Despite a certain degree of provincialism, floristic interchanges existed. Northwestern Gondwana constituted an intermediate warm temperate region with shared taxa mainly from more arid Euramerican localities in the North, and cooler southwestern Gondwanan localities in higher latitudes. However, it seems that a progressive homogenization of the vegetation took place in Middle Devonian as the standard Euramerican biozones are more easily recognized in Givetian than in Eifelian and Emsian. This transition from provincialism to cosmopolitanism during the Devonian is not only shown by palynofloras but also by the palaeogeographic distribution of many other fossil groups. It is likely due to a decrease of the latitudinal climatic gradient in Middle Devonian.