Ancient climate change made plants shift range

Jonathan Bloch’s research indicates that plants shift their ranges in response to climate change.

Jonathan Bloch is a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Florida and Florida Museum of Natural History. He was part of a team that discovered fossils of plants and pollen – some related to sumac and poinsettia – in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.

The fossils date back 55 million years, to a time when average global temperatures are thought to have risen as much as 10 degrees Celsius over 10,000 years. These same plants were known to be much farther south at an earlier time in history – before the warming event.

Jonathan Bloch: It was really interesting to see that a lot of the plants had come from much more southern distributions. One of the expectations for a warming event is that you might have range changes in which plants will move north from their southern distibutions as climate warms up.

But what’s also interesting is what this says for our future.

Jonathan Bloch: Prior to this example, we didn’t know that’s specifically how forests and mammals would react to a warming event like this. It’s an interesting test in the past to see how forests and mammals might react to climate change that we might experience in the future.

Our thanks to NASA: explore, discover, understand..

Our thanks to:
Jonathan I. Bloch
Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology
Florida Museum of Natural History
University of Florida

January 20, 2006

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