Effects of rapid global warming at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary on neotropical vegetation

Carlos Jaramillo, Diana Ochoa, Lineth Contreras, Mark Pagani, Humberto Carvajal-Ortiz, Lisa M Pratt, Srinath Krishnan, Agustin Cardona, Millerlandy Romero, Luis Quiroz, Guillermo Rodriguez, Milton J Rueda, Felipe de la Parra, Sara Morón, Walton Green, German Bayona, Camilo Montes, Oscar Quintero, Rafael Ramirez, Germán Mora, Stefan Schouten, Hermann Bermudez, Rosa Navarrete, Francisco Parra, Mauricio Alvarán, Jose Osorno, James L Crowley, Victor Valencia, Jeff Vervoort
Science 2010 November 12, 330 (6006): 957-61
Temperatures in tropical regions are estimated to have increased by 3° to 5°C, compared with Late Paleocene values, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56.3 million years ago) event. We investigated the tropical forest response to this rapid warming by evaluating the palynological record of three stratigraphic sections in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast to speculations that tropical ecosystems were severely compromised by heat stress.

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