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Stratigraphic Terminology and Description

Effective communication in science requires accurate and precise internationally acceptable terminology and procedures, to improve accuracy and precision in national and international communication and coordination. This is required at several levels.

At the international level usage of common terms and words which symbolize the same concepts in stratigraphic classification and description is required, in all countries (i.e. stratigraphic codes and procedures). The national codes for the most part followed those proposed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS).

At the national level usage of lithostratigraphic and lithodemic names also need to be harmonized so that these terms and names are accepted as representing the same body of rock. These are expressed in national lexicons of stratigraphic names (produced by many countries), and in the UK, in Framework reports.

Guides to Stratigraphic Procedure and Codes


The Lexicons provide definitions of regional supergroups, groups, formations and members (name, type location, characteristic lithology, age constraints etc). Generally national institutions in respective countries have the task of maintaining such Lexicons, for the UK, the British Geological Survey maintains the Lexicon.

Framework Reports and supporting materials

In addition to the Lexicon , the British Geological Survey (BGS) in conjunction with the Stratigraphy Commission has produced stratigraphic charts documenting formation/group names, ages and generalized lithofacies for all the onshore UK (southern Britain, Northern Britain).

Framework reports from BGS

These result from co-operation between the BGS Stratigraphy Committee and the Geological Society Stratigraphy Commission, with the aim of reviewing the stratigraphical classification for all parts of Great Britain for which modern information is available. The following reports are available for free from the BGS website.

  • Quaternary and Neogene deposits of Great Britain
  • Chalk of England and Scotland plus statements on Northern Ireland and Offshore UK.
  • Lower Cretaceous of England
  • Lower Jurassic of England and Wales
  • Mercia Mudstone Group (Triassic) of England and Wales
  • Sherwood Sandstone (Triassic)
  • Westphalian to Early Permian red beds of the Pennine Basin
  • Lithostratigraphical framework for Carboniferous successions of Great Britain (Onshore)
  • Carboniferous of northern Britian
  • Carboniferous of southern Britian
  • Carboniferous of the Midland Valley of Scotland.
  • Devonian (Old Red Sandstone) rocks of Scotland
  • Lake District volcanic and intrusive rocks
  • Ordovician of Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula

Summary Charts

  • Waters, C. N. et al. 2008. Stratigraphical chart of the United Kingdom: Northern Britain. British Geological Survey, 1 poster.
  • Waters, C.N. et al. 2008. Stratigraphical chart of the United Kingdom: Southern Britain. British Geological Survey, 1 poster.
  • Stoker, M.S., McMillan, A.A., and Waters, C.N. 2013. Quaternary Stratigraphical Chart for northern Britain. British Geological Survey, 1 poster.
  • Stoker, M.S., McMillan, A.A., and Waters, C.N. 2013. Quaternary Stratigraphical Chart for southern Britain. British Geological Survey, 1 poster.

Other materials relating to naming nomenclature

Geological Conservation Review Series

This series of books coordinated by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee were designed to identify and describe those sites of national and international importance needed to show all the key scientific elements of the Earth heritage in Britain. The sites selected – geological conservation review (GCR) sites - form the basis of statutory geological and geomorphological site conservation in Britain. The Geological Conservation Review Series of books provides a detailed public record of the features of interest and importance at localities already notified, or being considered for notification, as `Sites of Special Scientific Interest' (SSSIs).