Paleoclimate and Paleoecology Reconstructions of the Early Paleogene Arctic Using Fossil Leaves




Tegart, Amanda L.

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The early Paleogene was characterized by multiple short-lived warming events, called hyperthermals, which caused marked increases in temperature and changes in flora and fauna. In this study, we reconstruct climatic and ecological changes of the Arctic before and after the largest Paleogene hyperthemal event, the Paleocene-Eocence Thermal Maximum (PETM), using fossil leaves collected by the late L.J. Hickey from Stenkul Fjord on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian High Arctic. We digitally measured a variety of morphological characteristics to reconstruct mean annual temperature (MAT) and mean annual precipitation (MAP) using the leaf physiognomic methods Digital Leaf Physiognomy (DiLP), Leaf Margin Analysis (LMA), and Leaf Area Analysis (LAA). We also reconstructed leaf mass per area (Ma) to estimate leaf lifespan. Results indicate both the Paleocene and Eocene ecosystems were warm and wet, and plant communities were living within a temperate seasonal forest to temperate rainforest biome that was dominated by deciduous species. Although the climate and ecology were similar for the Paleocene and Eocene, a change in morphotype composition reflects a shift in the plant community on either side of the PETM. The results of this work help provide a better understanding of high latitude ecosystems, especially during warming events, which has important implications for the future given the current global climatic warming trends.



Paleobotany, Paleontology, Geology