Paleoatmospheric pCO2 and stomatal frequency of Ginkgo


Estimating paleoatmospheric pCO2 during the Early Eocene climatic optimum from stomatal frequency of Ginkgo, Okanagan Highlands, British Columbia, Canada.

by Smith R. Y.Greenwood D. R.Basinger J. F. (2010)

  • a Department of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, 114 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 5E2
  • b Department of Biology, Brandon University, 270 18th Street, Brandon, MB, Canada R7A 6A9

in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 2010;293:120131. – – 

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Estimates of pCO2 for the early Paleogene vary widely, from near modern-day levels to an order of magnitude greater, based on various proxy measures. Resolving the relationship between climate and pCO2 during this globally warm period is a key task in understanding climate dynamics in a warmer world.

Here, we use the stomatal frequency of fossil Ginkgo adiantoides from the Okanagan Highlands of British Columbia, Canada to estimate pCO2 during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO), the interval of peak warmth in the Cenozoic.

We also examine a dataset of modern Ginkgo biloba leaves to critically assess the accuracy and precision of stomatal frequency as a proxy indicator of pCO2.

Early Eocene fossil G. adiantoides has significantly lower stomatal frequency than modern G. biloba, suggesting pCO2 levels > 2× modern pre-industrial values. This result is in contrast to earlier studies using stomatal frequency of Ginkgo that indicated near modern-day levels of pCO2 in the early Paleogene, though not including samples from the EECO.

We also find that levels of pCO2 as indicated by stomatal frequency are correlated with trends in climate (mean annual temperature) over time at the Falkland fossil locality, suggesting that climate and pCO2 were coupled during the EECO hyperthermal.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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