2015-01-15. Tiny plant fossils offer window into Earth's landscape millions of years ago.

posted Jan 16, 2015, 1:05 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jan 16, 2015, 1:06 PM ]
NSF Press Release 15-003. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 8. Excerpt: Minuscule, fossilized pieces of plants tell a detailed story of what Earth looked like 50 million years ago. Researchers have discovered a way of determining density of trees, shrubs and bushes in locations over time--based on clues in the cells of plant fossils preserved in rocks and soil. Tree density directly affects precipitation, erosion, animal behavior and a host of other factors in the natural world. Quantifying vegetation structure throughout time could shed light on how Earth's ecosystems have changed over millions of years. ..."The new methodology provides a high-resolution lens for viewing the structure of ecosystems over the deep history of our planet," says Alan Tessier, acting director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research along with NSF's Division of Earth Sciences. "This capability will advance the field of paleoecology and greatly improve our understanding of how future climate change will reshape ecosystems." ..."Using this method, we can finally quantify in detail how Earth's plant and animal communities have responded to climate change over millions of years, vital for forecasting how ecosystems will change under predicted future climate scenarios."....  http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=133803&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click.