Palaeozoic landscapes shaped by plant evolution

Gibling, Martin R. and Davies, Neil S. (2012) Palaeozoic landscapes shaped by plant evolution. Nature Geoscience, 5 (2). pp. 99-105. ISSN 1752-0894 EISSN:1752-0908 DOI

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Fluvial landscapes diversified markedly over the 250 million years between the Cambrian and Pennsylvanian periods. The diversification occurred in tandem with the evolution of vascular plants and expanding vegetation cover. In the absence of widespread vegetation, landscapes during the Cambrian and Ordovican periods were dominated by rivers with wide sand-beds and aeolian tracts. During the late Silurian and Devonian periods, the appearance of vascular plants with root systems was associated with the development of channelled sand-bed rivers, meandering rivers and muddy floodplains. The widespread expansion of trees by the Early Pennsylvanian marks the appearance of narrow fixed channels, some representing anabranching systems, and braided rivers with vegetated islands. We conclude that the development of roots stabilized the banks of rivers and streams. The subsequent appearance of woody debris led to log jams that promoted the rapid formation of new river channels. Our contention is supported by studies of modern fluvial systems and laboratory experiments. In turn, fluvial styles influenced plant evolution as new ecological settings developed along the fluvial systems. We suggest that terrestrial plant and landscape evolution allowed colonization by an increasingly diverse array of organisms.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: NILAREP
Subjects: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Divisions: 02 - Geodynamics, Geophysics and Tectonics
Journal or Publication Title: Nature Geoscience
Volume: 5
Page Range: pp. 99-105
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 23 May 2013 14:17
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2013 09:46

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