DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5027/andgeoV41n1-a02

Onset of the Middle Eocene global cooling and expansion of open-vegetation habitats in central Patagonia

Eduardo S. Bellosi, J. Marcelo Krause

Abstract


Climate-driven changes in terrestrial environments and biomes after the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum are poorly documented from southern continents. Particularly, Middle Eocene-Early Oligocene leaf and pollen data from Central Patagonia (46oS, Argentina) are not sufficient to characterize floristic paleocommunities. Paleosols of the Cañadón Vaca (~45-42 Ma) and Gran Barranca (42-38.5 Ma) members (Sarmiento Formation), studied at Cañadón Vaca, solve such deficiency and help to reconstruct Middle Eocene landscapes in the beginning of the Cenozoic cooling-drying trend. Vitric Entisols, mollic Andisols and andic Alfisols, showing granular structure and diverse micropeds, are cyclically arranged mainly in response to variation in fine volcaniclastic eolian supply, which in turn governed ecosystem stability and maturity. Soils formed in loessic plains crossed by minor ephemeral rivers, supported open herbaceous-arboreal communities which grew in seasonal, subhumid and warmtemperate conditions. Phytoliths produced by Arecaceae, megathermic graminoids, sedges and dicots, from the upper part of the studied unit, represent subtropical savannas with grasses and variable number of palms and other trees. Considering the abundant paleobotanical and paleopedological antecedents of Late Paleocene-Early Eocene warm and humid forested environments in the same region, the lower Sarmiento Formation records the initial expansion of open herbaceous communities and the appearance of grassy habitats during the greenhouse to icehouse transition in the Middle Eocene.

How to cite this article Bellosi, E.; Krause, J. 2013, Onset of the Middle Eocene global cooling and expansion of open-vegetation habitats in central Patagonia. Andean Geology 41 (1): 29-48. [doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5027/andgeoV41n1-a02]