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Fables and foibles: A critical analysis of the Palaeoflora database and the Coexistence Approach for palaeoclimate reconstruction
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Paleobiology. (Paleobiologi)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4241-9075
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Paleobiology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9535-1206
2016 (English)In: Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, ISSN 0034-6667, E-ISSN 1879-0615, Vol. 233, 216-235 p.Article in journal (Refereed) In press
Abstract [en]

The ‘Coexistence Approach’ is amutual climate range (MCR) technique combinedwith the nearest-living relative (NLR) concept. It has been widely used for palaeoclimate reconstructions based on Eurasian plant fossil assemblages; most of them palynofloras (studied using light microscopy). The results have been surprisingly uniform, typically converging to subtropical, per-humid or monsoonal conditions. Studies based on the Coexistence Approach have had a marked impact in literature, generating over 10,000 citations thus far. However, recent studies have pointed out inherent theoretical and practical problems entangled in the application of this widely used method. But so far little is known how results generated by the Coexistence Approach are affected by subjective errors, data errors, and violations of the basic assumptions. The majority of Coexistence Approach studies make use of the Palaeoflora database (the combination of which will be abbreviated to CA + PF). Testing results produced by CA + PF studies has been hindered by the general unavailability of the contents in the underlying Palaeoflora database; two exceptions are the mean-annual temperature tolerances and lists of assigned associations between fossils and nearest-living relatives. Using a recently published study on the Eocene of China,which provides the first and only insight into the data structure of the Palaeoflora database,we compare the theory and practice of Coexistence Approach using the Palaeoflora database (CA+PF).We show that CA+PF is riddled by association and climate data error.We reveal flaws in the application of the Coexistence Approach,which is often in stark contrast to the theory of the method. We show that CA + PF is highly vulnerable against numerous sources of errors, mainly because it lacks safeguards that could identify unreliable data. We demonstrate that the CA+PF produces coherent, pseudo-precise results even for artificially generated, randomplant assemblages. AlternativeMCR-NLR methods can surpass the most imminent deficits of the Coexistence Approach, and may be used as a stop-gap until more accurate bioclimatic and distribution data on potential Eurasian NLRs, and theoretically and statistically robust methods will become available. Finally, general guidelines are provided for the future application of methods using the mutual climatic range with nearest living relatives approach when reconstructing climate from plant fossil assemblages.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016. Vol. 233, 216-235 p.
Keyword [en]
Coexistence Approach; Mutual climate range techniques; Nearest-living relative concept; Palaeoflora database; Data error
National Category
Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Research subject
The changing Earth
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nrm:diva-1793DOI: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2016.07.001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nrm-1793DiVA: diva2:951290
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2012-4378
Available from: 2016-08-08 Created: 2016-08-08 Last updated: 2016-10-18Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

The full text will be freely available from 2017-08-01 12:25
Available from 2017-08-01 12:25

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Publisher's full texthttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0034666716301208

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Grimm, GuidoBouchal, Johannes M.Denk, ThomasPotts, Alastair
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CiteExportLink to record
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