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Reconstruction of the middle Eocene climate of Messel using palaeobotanical data

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The middle Eocene Messel Formation represents the infilling of a maar lake which has provided numerous well-preserved plant fossils including leaves, palynomorphs, fruits and seeds. Previous studies carried out with respect to climatic conditions during the deposition of the Messel Maar sediments, have resulted in estimates mainly based on general floral characteristics and not on quantitative data. Here, we apply the Coexistence Approach to the Messel plant taphocoenosis in order to obtain a quantitative reconstruction of the middle Eocene climate including mean annual temperature, mean temperature of the warmest and coldest month, mean annual precipitation, mean precipitation of the wettest, driest and warmest month as well as the mean relative air humidity. Since the correct identification of a nearest living relative species or genus is frequently problematic for Eocene species, climate calculations are based on the family level. Thus, the present study serves as a case study for the application of the Coexistence Approach on the family level to a plant taphocoenosis of Eocene age. In order to obtain supplementary data for climate, mean annual temperature was also calculated by Leaf Margin Analysis. For Messel, our results indicate a mean annual temperature of approximately 22 °C (up to ∼ 24 °C) with a mean temperature of the coldest month clearly above 10 °C. Mean annual precipitation rates amounted to about 2540 mm and mean relative air humidity reached 77%. In spite of some uncertainties caused by the comparison on family level and potential changes in the climatic limitations of the respective families, both CA and LMA confirm a warm and humid, frost-free climate for the middle Eocene of Messel.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2011

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