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National Science Foundation (USA) 2008

HOW DID THE GRASSLAND BIOME EVOLVE IN SOUTH AMERICA ? : INTEGRATING CENOZOIC CLIMATE, FLORAL AND FAUNAL RECORDS FROM PATAGONIA, ARGENTINA

Grassland Biome Argentina

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Titre : HOW DID THE GRASSLAND BIOME EVOLVE IN SOUTH AMERICA ? : INTEGRATING CENOZOIC CLIMATE, FLORAL AND FAUNAL RECORDS FROM PATAGONIA, ARGENTINA

Organismes NSF : Division Of Earth Sciences (EAR)

Durée : August 1, 2008 — February 28, 2013

Description
Grasslands, which today form 1/4 of Earth ?s vegetative cover, are thought to have developed earlier in South America than on other continents, based on floral, faunal, and sedimentological evidence at Gran Barranca, Argentina, and nearby. However, the timing and rate of change remain unclear, as well as causal mechanisms. We will determine the timing and nature of climatic, vegetational, and faunal events related to the evolution of Earth ?s earliest grassland ecosystems in southern Argentina by integrating floral, stable isotopic, and faunal data through the long, well-dated, and nearly continuous sedimentological record at Gran Barranca ( 42.0 to 18.5 Ma). We will focus on evaluating whether : (1) The rise to dominance of open-habitat grasses in South America occurred in parallel with their appearance, (2) An increase in openness of habitats occurred in parallel with the rise to ecological dominance of open-habitat grasses, (3) Changes in vegetation were correlated with climate change, and (4) Hypsodonty in South American mammalian herbivores responded rapidly to the spread of open, grass-dominated habitats. Fossil phytoliths (plant silica) will be analyzed to provide detailed, continuous floral records of grasses as well as other climate- or ecology-sensitive plant groups (e.g., palms, sedges). Fossil teeth will be analyzed for stable isotope compositions, focusing on bulk d13C values and isotopic zoning of d13C and 18O values. Together with phytolith assemblage data and sedimentology, this isotopic information will be used to infer changes in habitat openness, aridity, and seasonality in terms of temperature and precipitation. Comparison with records of faunal community composition and functional morphology will elucidate the patterns of grassland expansion and faunal responses. Our data will additionally help answer the following two questions : (1) How does the timing and rate of climate change in Argentina compare with the marine record ? (2) How do patterns of fauna-flora-climate evolution in South America compare with putatively similar changes that occurred later, e.g., in central North America ? The proposed project incorporates several avenues for disseminating the research to the public through the Burke Museum, including an in-museum exhibit, materials for traveling study kits on the evolution of grasslands, and development of a phytolith database with images accessible on-line through the Museum’s website.

Partenaire (s) : Caroline Stromberg caestrom u.washington.edu (Principal Investigator)

Financement : $149,573.00

Présentation (National Science Foundation)

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