The Upper Muschelkalk in the Central European Basin (CEB) is a key example of eustatic and climatic controls on inland seas. The late Anisian rapid transgression from Tethyan waters culminated in a large semi-enclosed inland sea stretching across the CEB. Subsequently, the slow but successive retreat in the early Ladinian resulted in a small remnant sea. The pronounced stratal pattern architectures are translated into a framework of 3rd- and 4th-order T–R sequences. The latest Illyrian 3rd-order maximum flooding surface corresponds to maximum abundances of carbonates and marine phytoplankton. An euryhaline marine ecology is indicated by prasinophycean algae dominating over acritarchs and δ18OP values of 18.9–22.4‰ VSMOW corresponding to Tethyan references. During the 3rd-order regressive phase successive freshening up to hyposaline conditions is indicated by up to 3‰ depleted δ18OP values, shifts to more radiogenic 87Sr/86Sr ratios and maximum abundances of terrestrial palynomorphs. Likewise, 4th-order T–R sequences are constrained by commutated stratal pattern architectures, palynofacies and geochemistry.
The favourable correlation of middle Triassic 3rd-order sequences of Tethyan and peri-Tethyan basins demonstrate the principle control of circum-Tethyan eustatic cycles. 4th-order sequences are evident and, although not yet correlatable in detail, indicate 106-year scale eustatic cycles which may be attributed to glacioeustatic sea-level changes.
The subordinated control of arid to semiarid low latitude and semihumid to humid temperate mid latitude climates affected the Upper Muschelkalk Sea in particular during 4th-order sea-level lowstands. Substantial fresh water input from Scandinavian sources caused temporal stratification leading to stagnant bottom waters and/or sediments as indicated by palynofacies and U/Th and Ni/Co redox indices. The herein reconstructed middle Triassic zonal climates are in agreement to previously published Late Triassic zonal climates.