Early Jurassic CO2 concentrations based on stomatal analysis of fossil conifer leaves

Early Jurassic (late Pliensbachian) CO2 concentrations based on stomatal analysis of fossil conifer leaves from eastern Australia

by Steinthorsdottir M., Vajda V. (2015)

M. Steinthorsdottir, a V. Vajda, b

a Department of Geological Sciences, Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, SE 109 61 Stockholm, Sweden

bDepartment of Geology, Lund University, SE 223 62 Lund, Sweden

In Gondwana Res. 27: 932–939 – https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gr.2013.08.021



•Australian araucariacean conifers are abundant both living and as fossils.

•Fossil conifer leaves were used to reconstruct Jurassic (Pliensbachian) pCO2.

•Pliensbachian pCO2, reconstructed with the stomatal proxy method, was ca. 900 ppm.


The stomatal index (a measure of stomatal density) of an extinct Australian Early Jurassic araucariacean conifer species, Allocladus helgei Jansson, is used to reconstruct the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration (pCO2) in the Early Jurassic.

The fossil leaves are preserved in a single bed, palynologically dated to late Pliensbachian (~ 185–183 Mya). Atmospheric pCO2 is estimated from the ratios between the stomatal index of A. helgei and the stomatal indices of three modern analogs (nearest living equivalent plants).

CO2concentration in the range of ~ 750–975 ppm was calibrated from the fossil material, with a best-estimated mean of ~ 900 ppm. The new average pCO2 determined for the late Pliensbachian is thus similar to, although ~ 10% lower, than previously inferred minimum concentrations of ~ 1000, based on data from the Northern Hemisphere, but may help constrain pCO2 during this period.

Our results are the first pCO2 estimates produced using Jurassic leaves from the Southern Hemisphere and show that

i) paleo-atmospheric pCO2 estimates are consistent at a global scale, though more investigations of Southern Hemisphere material are required, and

ii) the stomatal proxy method can now be used without the context of relative change in pCO2 when applying the correct methodology.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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

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