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Earth and Environmental Sciences pres.

Smith Lecture: The Stable Isotopic Fingerprint of Landscapes and Life

Andreas Mulch, Institute of Geosciences, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

The elevation history of the Earth’s surface and large orogens in particular reflects the competing roles of geodynamic processes in crust and mantle as well as erosion. At the same time, mountains host a substantial proportion of the world’s species and the long-term surface elevation history of orogens not only affects local (e.g. rainfall, seasonality, biodiversity) but also global climatic conditions e.g. through atmospheric teleconnections. Recovering the timing and rates of Earth’s surface processes, therefore, directly links to patterns of biomes and biodiversity at the interface of atmospheric and geodynamic processes. Here I present stable and clumped isotope approaches from the European Alps (Switzerland), the Anatolian plateau (Turkey) and the East African Rift System (Malawi) to identify the interactions of regional surface uplift and climate change on paleo-environmental conditions. Given the rapid technological advances in modeling and proxy approaches to determine paleoelevation as well as phylogenetic techniques in recovering the evolutionary history of mountainous species, understanding the interactions among biodiversity and Earth surface processes will develop into a key opportunity for the geological and biological sciences.

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