An Ancient Greenhouse Window Into The Future
A University of Queensland researcher is going back 50 million years to get a glimpse of what a future greenhouse climate might be like. Dr Patrick Moss, a lecturer in physical geography with the School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, is working on a research project that is unearthing what the world's climate was like 50-million-years-ago. "We have been looking at how plants respond to warmer temperatures to give us an insight into what might happen if the Earth's temperatures continue to increase," Dr Moss said. Dr Moss's research has focused on a particular area of western-Canada, where fossilised leaves, insects and pollen are revealing a vastly different landscape to that of today. "50 million years ago western Canada was a sub-tropical rainforest," he said. "We are finding evidence of palms as well as a mix of oak and redwood forests. "And we have found a particular species of redwood that is now only found in a certain part of China." He said the site in Canada was chosen because of such well-preserved fossil plants and insects as well as being at a similar latitude now as it was 50-million-years-ago, making it perfect for comparison with today's environment. "Compared to 50-million-years-ago, our present climate is generally characterised as being much cooler and dryer," he said. "But now we are observing very rapid environmental change towards a warmer climate, with greater extremes in precipitation. "Our research is suggesting that because of these increases in temperatures we will see some extinction events of plants over time." Dr Moss plans to return to Canada in June this year to collect further samples and expand his research.