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    Palaeo leaf economics reveal a shift in ecosystem function associated with the end-Triassic mass extinction event


    Soh, Wuu Kuang and Wright, I.J. and Bacon, Karen and Lenz, T.I. and Steinthorsdottir, Margret and Parnell, Andrew C. and Mcelwain, Jennifer C. (2017) Palaeo leaf economics reveal a shift in ecosystem function associated with the end-Triassic mass extinction event. Nature Plants, 3. p. 17104. ISSN 2055-026X

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    Abstract

    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.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Tree ring; Growth rings; Intrinsic water-use;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Mathematics and Statistics
    Faculty of Science and Engineering > Research Institutes > Hamilton Institute
    Item ID: 11749
    Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2017.104
    Depositing User: Andrew Parnell
    Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2019 17:14
    Journal or Publication Title: Nature Plants
    Publisher: Nature Research
    Refereed: Yes
    URI:

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