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20 December 2012

Die neue Weltordnung der Tiere: Wallace-Karte nach fast 150 Jahren aktualisiert...

18 December 2012

(Fleder)Mäuse als Krankheitsüberträger - Untersuchungen zu Vektoren in Hessens Wäldern...

03 December 2012

Rapid test to save lives of snakebite victims . New diagnostic test awarded 1st prize at the Göttingen Innovation Competition...

22 November 2012

Online-Portal zum Klimawissen wächst...

20 November 2012

Midges in a heat-based test of endurance – evolutionary history determines adaptability to high temperatures...

11 October 2012

„Feed the World 2050“ – Veranstaltung zum Welternährungstag 2012: Wie ernährt man neun Milliarden Menschen nachhaltig? Ernährungssicherung der Zukunft...

21 September 2012

Schutz für die Heimat der Drachenblutbäume: BiK-F, Senckenberg, GIZ und jemenitische Umweltagentur vereinbaren Zusammenarbeit im UNESCO-Weltnaturerbe Sokotra...

17 September 2012

Veranstaltungdreiklang: Vorträge und Diskussionen zur Nachhaltigkeit ...

14 September 2012

Teamwork in the tropics – pollinators and frugivores are less choosy at the equator...

04 September 2012

Pinguine in der Patsche: Neue Zahlen zu Pinguin-Rückgang auf sich erwärmender Antarktischer Halbinsel...

30 August 2012

Klimaentwicklung ist keine Einbahnstraße - Tiefsee-Bohrungen zeigen langfristige Entwicklung des CO2-Kreislaufs...

01 August 2012

Tropical climate in the Antarctic: Palm trees once thrived on today’s icy coasts 52 million years ago...

06 July 2012

Outstanding for the past 15 million years – the Swiss Alps have influenced Europe’s climate since the Miocene ...

05 July 2012

Pilze für die Zukunft: Neuer LOEWE-Schwerpunkt „Integrative Pilzforschung (IPF)“...

28 June 2012

Tree trumps grass to rule the savannas...

26 June 2012

Auf Mückenfang im Auftrag der Wissenschaft - Frankfurter Wissenschaftler unterstützen „Jugend forscht!“ Projekt in Bad Vilbel...

25 June 2012

Vortrag: Tropenkrankheiten – jetzt auch in Europa?...

11 June 2012

Vortrag im Senckenberg: Toxische Lebensretter - Einsatz von Tiergiften in der modernen Arzneiforschung ...

04 June 2012

Unscheinbar und doch gewaltig: Flechten, Algen und Moose sind Großspeicher für Stickstoff und Kohlendioxid...

31 May 2012

Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum vereinbart Kooperation mit Nationalpark Kellerwald-Edersee...

25 May 2012

Allergie durch Klimawandel? - Vortrag aus der Reihe „Natur wirkt!?“...

14 May 2012

Vortrag: Gesundes Stadtgrün – wie Park und Co. unsere Lebensqualität steigern...

10 May 2012

Globaler Online-Atlas der Arten – Großprojekt „Map of Life“ geht an den Start...

07 May 2012

Der BIOTA West Atlas – 10 Jahre Biodiversitätsforschung in einem Buch ...

26 April 2012

Gefährliche Gäste – Parasiten: Vortrag aus der Reihe „Natur wirkt!?“...

24 April 2012

Ein genetischer Personalausweis für Pilze...

20 April 2012

Polar bears are evolutionarily older and genetically more distinct than previously known: ancestry traced back to 600,000 years ago...

17 April 2012

Evolution: Vangas beat Darwin’s finches in diversity ...

10 April 2012

Vortrag: Medizin am seidenen Faden – neue Anwendungsgebiete für Spinnen...

22 March 2012

Viren aus dem Regenwald - Vortrag aus der Reihe „Natur wirkt!?“...

12 March 2012

Neue Senckenberg-Vortragsreihe „Natur wirkt?!“...

29 February 2012

Standing still in running water - Lotic dragon- and damselfly species are less able to track climate change...

24 February 2012

Blick aufs große Ganze – Jahrestagung des Arbeitskreises Makroökologie der Gesellschaft für Ökologie ...

06 February 2012

Klimawandel: Warum aus Wissen so wenig Handeln wird – Podiumsdiskussion mit Harald Welzer und Hans-Werner Sinn...

24 January 2012

Where there’s a worm there’s a whale – First distribution model of marine parasites provides revealing insights...

23 January 2012

Rahmstorf kommt...

10 January 2012

Rettet uns Geo-Engineering vor dem Klimawandel? ...

05 January 2012

Inselhopping zahlt sich aus - Studie unterstreicht Bedeutung des Verbreitungsgebiets bei der Artbildung ...

Press Releases

Tropical climate in the Antarctic: Palm trees once thrived on today’s icy coasts 52 million years ago

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, August 2, 2012. Given the predicted rise in global temperatures in the coming decades, climate scientists are particularly interested in warm periods that occurred in the geological past. Knowledge of past episodes of global warmth can be used to better understand the relationship between climate change, variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide and the reaction of Earth’s biosphere. An international team led by scientists from the Goethe University and the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt, Germany, has discovered an intense warming phase around 52 million years ago in drill cores obtained from the seafloor near Antarctica — a region that is especially important in climate research. The study published in the journal Nature shows that tropical vegetation, including palms and relatives of today’s tropical Baobab trees, was growing on the coast of Antarctica 52 million years ago. These results highlight the extreme contrast between modern and past climatic conditions on Antarctica and the extent of global warmth during periods of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Around 52 million years ago, the concentration of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was more than twice as high as today. “If the current CO2 emissions continue unabated due to the burning of fossil fuels, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, as they existed in the distant past, are likely to be achieved within a few hundred years”, explains Prof. Jörg Pross, a paleoclimatologist at the Goethe University and member of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) in Frankfurt, Germany. “By studying naturally occurring climate warming periods in the geological past, our knowledge of the mechanisms and processes in the climate system increases. This contributes enormously to improving our understanding of current human-induced global warming.”

Computer models indicate that future climate warming will be particularly pronounced in high-latitude regions, i.e., near the poles. Until now, however, it has been unclear how Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems responded in the geological past to a greenhouse climate with high atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

The scientists working with Prof. Pross analysed rock samples from drill cores on the seabed, which were obtained off the coast of Wilkes Land, Antarctica, as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). The rock samples are between 53 and 46 million years old and contain fossil pollen and spores that are known to originate from the Antarctic coastal region. The researchers were thus able to reconstruct the local vegetation on Antarctica and, accordingly, interpret the presence of tropical and subtropical rainforests covering the coastal region 52 million years ago.

In an area where the Antarctic ice sheet borders the Southern Ocean today, frost-sensitive and warmth-loving plants such as palms and the ancestors of today’s baobab trees flourished 52 million years ago. The scientists’ evaluations show that the winter temperatures on the Wilkes Land coast of Antarctica were warmer than 10 degrees Celsius at that time, despite three months of polar night. The continental interior, however, was noticeably cooler, with the climate supporting the growth of temperate rainforests characterized by southern beech and Araucaria trees of the type common in New Zealand today. Additional evidence of extremely mild temperatures was provided by analysis of organic compounds that were produced by soil bacteria populating the soils along the Antarctic coast.

These new findings from Antarctica also imply that the temperature difference between the low latitudes and high southern latitudes during the greenhouse phase 52 million years ago was significantly smaller than previously thought. “The CO2 content of the atmosphere as assumed for that time interval is not enough on its own to explain the almost tropical conditions in the Antarctic”, says Pross. “Another important factor was the transfer of heat via warm ocean currents that reached Antarctica.” When the warm ocean current collapsed and the Antarctic coast came under the influence of cooler ocean currents, the tropical rainforests including palms and Baobab relatives also disappeared.

For further information please contact:

Prof. Dr. Jörg Pross
Paleoenvironmental Dynamics Group, Palentology Section, Institute of Geosciences,
Goethe University and
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Center
Phone +49 (0)69 798 40181 joerg.pross@em.uni-frankfurt.de

or

Sabine Wendler
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (BiK-F),
Press officer
Phone +49 (0)69 7542 1838
sabine.wendler@senckenberg.de

Paper:
Pross, J., Contreras, L., Bijl, P.K., Greenwood, D.R., Bohaty, S.M., Schouten, S., Bendle, J.A., Röhl, U., Tauxe, L., Raine, J.I., Huck, C.E., van de Flierdt, T., Jamieson, S.S.R., Stickley, C.E., van de Schootbrugge, B., Escutia, C., Brinkhuis, H., IODP Expedition 318 Scientists (2012): Persistent near-tropical warmth on the Antarctic continent during the early Eocene epoch. Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature11300


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