Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

When palm trees gave way to spruce trees

19.06.2009
For climatologists, part of the challenge in predicting the future is figuring out exactly what happened during previous periods of global climate change.

One long-standing climate puzzle relates to a sequence of events 33.5 million years ago in the Late Eocene and Early Oligocene. Profound changes were underway. Globally, carbon dioxide levels were falling and the hothouse warmth of the dinosaur age and Eocene Period was waning. In Antarctica, ice sheets had formed and covered much of the southern polar continent.

But what exactly was happening on land, in northern latitudes? When and how did Northern glaciation begin, and what does this knowledge add to the understanding of the relationship between carbon dioxide levels and today's climate?

An international team that included Dr. David Greenwood, an NSERC-funded researcher at Brandon University, now provides some of the very first detailed answers, and they come from an unusual source.

"Fossils of land plants are excellent indicators of past climates," said Dr. Greenwood. "But the fossil plant localities from the Canadian Arctic and Greenland don't appear to record this major climate change, and pose problems for precisely dating their age, so we needed to look elsewhere."

The "where" was in marine sediments entombed when the North Atlantic Ocean was beginning to open, and lying now at the bottom of today's Norwegian-Greenland Sea. Sediment cores taken from there contained a record of ancient spores and pollen blown from the continent to the west.

"These marine sediment cores give us a very precise chronology of the changes in the dominant land plants," said Dr. Greenwood "and since many of these species have modern relatives, we can assume that the temperatures and environments they lived in were very similar."

To arrive at a holistic picture of the climate of the transition, the researchers merged the plant data with physical information about the state of the atmosphere and ocean taken from chemical and isotopic information in the same sediments, and compared this to computer modelling of climate in the period.

"We can see that summer temperatures on land remained relatively warm throughout the Eocene/Oligocene transition, but that the period was marked by increasing seasonality," said Dr. Greenwood.

"Mean temperatures during the coldest month dropped by five degrees Celsius, to just above freezing," he said.

"This was probably not enough to create much in the way of continental ice on East Greenland," he said, "but it did wipe out palms and other subtropical trees such as swamp cypress. They were replaced by temperate climate trees such as spruces and hemlock."

The researcher said that, nonetheless, the middle period of the transition remained fairly warm. "Hickory and walnut were still present, but these became rare in the final stages," he said.

Although the march to a cooler world was gradual in northern latitudes, it was inevitable according to Dr. Greenwood.

"Changes in the earth's position in its orbit were leading a much greater seasonal range in radiation for polar regions and, overall, heat was becoming more concentrated in the tropics, largely due to a global drop in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere" he said.

The group's detailed record of the Eocene/Oligocene transition will appear in the June 18 issue of Nature. Further information can be found in a release from the University of Southhampton, England.

David Greenwood | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brandonu.ca

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Software mit Grips

Ein computergestütztes Netzwerk zeigt, wie die Ionenkanäle in der Membran von Nervenzellen so verschiedenartige Fähigkeiten wie Kurzzeitgedächtnis und Hirnwellen steuern können

Nervenzellen, die auch dann aktiv sind, wenn der auslösende Reiz verstummt ist, sind die Grundlage für ein Kurzzeitgedächtnis. Durch rhythmisch aktive...

Im Focus: Der komplette Zellatlas und Stammbaum eines unsterblichen Plattwurms

Von einer einzigen Stammzelle zur Vielzahl hochdifferenzierter Körperzellen: Den vollständigen Stammbaum eines ausgewachsenen Organismus haben Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler aus Berlin und München in „Science“ publiziert. Entscheidend war der kombinierte Einsatz von RNA- und computerbasierten Technologien.

Wie werden aus einheitlichen Stammzellen komplexe Körperzellen mit sehr unterschiedlichen Funktionen? Die Differenzierung von Stammzellen in verschiedenste...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Verbesserte Stabilität von Kunststoff-Leuchtdioden

Polymer-Leuchtdioden (PLEDs) sind attraktiv für den Einsatz in großflächigen Displays und Lichtpanelen, aber ihre begrenzte Stabilität verhindert die Kommerzialisierung. Wissenschaftler aus dem Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung (MPIP) in Mainz haben jetzt die Ursachen der Instabilität aufgedeckt.

Bildschirme und Smartphones, die gerollt und hochgeklappt werden können, sind Anwendungen, die in Zukunft durch die Entwicklung von polymerbasierten...

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industrie & Wirtschaft
Veranstaltungen

Internationale Konferenz zur Digitalisierung

19.04.2018 | Veranstaltungen

124. Internistenkongress in Mannheim: Internisten rücken Altersmedizin in den Fokus

19.04.2018 | Veranstaltungen

DFG unterstützt Kongresse und Tagungen - Juni 2018

17.04.2018 | Veranstaltungen

VideoLinks
Wissenschaft & Forschung
Weitere VideoLinks im Überblick >>>
 
Aktuelle Beiträge

Grösster Elektrolaster der Welt nimmt Arbeit auf

20.04.2018 | Interdisziplinäre Forschung

Bilder magnetischer Strukturen auf der Nano-Skala

20.04.2018 | Physik Astronomie

Kieler Forschende entschlüsseln neuen Baustein in der Entwicklung des globalen Klimas

20.04.2018 | Geowissenschaften

Weitere B2B-VideoLinks
IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics