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Abstract

Human carbon use during the next century will lead to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (CO) that have been unprecedented for the past 50–100+ million years according to fossil plant-based CO estimates. The paleobotanical record of plants offers key insights into vegetation responses to past global change, including suitable analogs for Earth's climatic future. Past global warming events have resulted in transient poleward migration at rates that are equivalent to the lowest climate velocities required for current taxa to keep pace with climate change. Paleobiome reconstructions suggest that the current tundra biome is the biome most threatened by global warming. The common occurrence of paleoforests at high polar latitudes when CO was above 500 ppm suggests that the advance of woody shrub and tree taxa into tundra environments may be inevitable. Fossil pollen studies demonstrate the resilience of wet tropical forests to global change up to 700 ppm CO, contrary to modeled predictions of the future. The paleobotanical record also demonstrates a high capacity for functional trait evolution as an additional strategy to migration and maintenance of a species’ climate envelope in response to global change.

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2018-04-29
2024-07-13
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