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A new paleo-leaf economic proxy reveals a shift in ecosystem function in response to global warming at the onset of the Triassic period
School of Biology and Environmental Science, Earth Institute, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4148-3956
Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8338-9143
School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8944-5107
Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia.
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2017 (English)In: Nature Plants, ISSN ISSN 2055-0278, Vol. 3, 17104Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Climate change is likely to have altered the ecological functioning of past ecosystems, and is likely to alter functioning in the future; however, the magnitude and direction of such changes are difficult to predict. Here we use a deep-time case study to evaluate the impact of a well-constrained CO2-induced global warming event on the ecological functioning of dominant plant communities. We use leaf mass per area (LMA), a widely used trait in modern plant ecology, to infer the palaeoecological strategy of fossil plant taxa. We show that palaeo-LMA can be inferred from fossil leaf cuticles based on a tight relationship between LMA and cuticle thickness observed among extant gymnosperms. Application of this new palaeo-LMA proxy to fossil gymnosperms from East Greenland reveals significant shifts in the dominant ecological strategies of vegetation found across the Triassic–Jurassic transition. Late Triassic forests, dominated by low-LMA taxa with inferred high transpiration rates and short leaf lifespans, were replaced in the Early Jurassic by forests dominated by high-LMA taxa that were likely to have slower metabolic rates. We suggest that extreme CO2-induced global warming selected for taxa with high LMA associated with a stress-tolerant strategy and that adaptive plasticity in leaf functional traits such as LMA contributed to post-warming ecological success.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Nature Publishing Group, 2017. Vol. 3, 17104
Keyword [en]
Climate-change ecology, forest ecology, palaeoecology, plant physiology
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Ecosystems and species history
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nrm:diva-2610DOI: 10.1038/nplants2017.104.OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nrm-2610DiVA: diva2:1163725
Note

Research funded by Science Foundation Ireland PI grant (11/P1/1103);

University College Dublin (SF1036);

Royal Irish Academy;

Australian Research Council (FT100100910);

Macquarie University.

Available from: 2017-12-07 Created: 2017-12-07 Last updated: 2017-12-15Bibliographically approved

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Soh, W.K.Wright, I.J.Bacon, K.L.Steinthorsdottir, Margret
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