EEB Thursday Seminar: Seeing the forest through the leaves: reconstructing ancient forest ecosystems in Wyoming and Ethiopia
Ellen Currano, Dept of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming
Fossil plants are most often preserved as isolated leaves, not entire organisms, making it especially challenging to reconstruct 3-dimensional ecosystems from fossil remains. New proxies involving leaf venation, micromorphological structure, and carbon isotopes are currently being developed to reconstruct vegetation structure from isolated leaf fossils. Fossil leaves also record insect feeding traces, direct evidence of two levels in a fossil food web, and changes in insect herbivory can be related to environmental changes. Case studies using fossil leaves from the western US and Ethiopia will examine changes in forest ecosystems during times of climate change, including the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a geologically abrupt perturbation to the carbon cycle and global climate that is the best geologic analog for modern-day global warming.
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