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Palaeo leaf economics reveal a shift in ecosystem function associated with the end-Triassic mass extinction event
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Number of Authors: 7
2017 (English)In: Nature Plants, ISSN 2055-026X, Vol. 3, no 8, 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 CO 2 -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
2017. Vol. 3, no 8, 17104
National Category
Biological Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145848DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2017.104ISI: 000406850200002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-145848DiVA: diva2:1135772
Available from: 2017-08-24 Created: 2017-08-24 Last updated: 2017-08-24Bibliographically approved

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Steinthorsdottir, Margret
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