Grant: $1,081,496 - National Science Foundation - Sep. 1, 2009
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Award Description: A series of exceptionally diverse, well-preserved, and informative macrofloras, dating from 66-47 Ma, is found in central Patagonia, Argentina. Approximately 80% of more than 500 species from recent field collections are new discoveries, and the time interval includes the end Cretaceous (K-T) extinction and recovery as well as important climatic events. The assemblages include the only terminal Cretaceous flora (Lefipán) and the most diverse early Paleocene floras known from Gondwana (Salamanca and Las Flores), as well as the richest early and middle Eocene floras known anywhere (Laguna del Hunco and Río Pichileufú, respectively). The fossil floras hold immense relevance to modern biodiversity as an unrivaled data source regarding plant diversification, biogeography, ecology, and climatic history in South America and Gondwana during this time interval. There are numerous broader impacts to this work. Most importantly, this is a well-developed international collaboration involving abundant intellectual exchange. Training of graduate students and postdocs is a major focus; their careers will advance significantly from extended exposure to a rich intellectual environment and international networking opportunities. Broader impacts also include scientific benefits to the international community, including: 1) the first densely sampled South American floral and paleoclimatic record for a time interval of immense global interest because of mass extinction and climate change; 2) numerous, novel, well-dated clade appearances in South America, with significance for Gondwanan evolutionary biogeography; 3) the first robust stratigraphic and sedimentological frameworks for the Cretaceous and Paleocene floras, making it possible to interpret them and correlate them to other deposits around the world; and 4) a high potential for significant unplanned discoveries. Research results will be disseminated widely through peer-reviewed publications, presentations at meetings, and other venues.
Project Description: The work will make significant progress regarding the following fundamental questions: 1) did major losses of richness and significant shifts in floral composition, followed by a long recovery, occur across the K-T in Patagonia, as in North America? The K-T event and recovery in Patagonia will be studied for the first time using integrated data from stratigraphically controlled and sedimentologically interpreted microfloras and macrofloras; 2) what are the compositions and affinities of the floras, via systematic paleobotany? Australasian components are the best known (e.g., Eocene Eucalyptus, Gymnostoma, and Papuacedrus), but there are also less understood Neotropical elements, disjuncts, Patagonian temperate-rainforest survivor lineages, and clades not in Gondwana today; and 3) was a rainforest biome present in central Patagonia? In the absence of frost, rainfall is the most important determinant of biodiversity, and thus high precipitation would help to explain the elevated richness observed through this warm time interval. Paleoclimate will be interpreted from leaf size and shape data, the tolerances of living relatives, and analyses of bacterially-produced, soil-derived, branched tetraethers. Additional studies will address: 1) Neotropical floral interchange, to be assessed by comparing stratigraphically controlled, taxonomically vetted palynological data from Patagonia and Colombia; 2) systematics of selected plant taxa occurring in other South and North American floras and in Patagonia; 3) insect-feeding damage on fossil leaves and its response to the K-T, climate change, and changing floral richness; 4) insect systematics; and 5) hotspring diatoms associated with the fossil plant remains from Eocene caldera lakes.
Jobs Summary: Nothing to report currently. (Total jobs reported: 0)
Project Status: Not Started
This award's data was last updated on Sep. 1, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.