Arctic plant diversity in the Early Eocene greenhouse

Guy Harrington, J Eberle, BA Le-Page, M Dawson, JH Hutchison

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34 Citations (Scopus)


For the majority of the Early Caenozoic, a remarkable expanse of humid, mesothermal to temperate forests spread across Northern Polar regions that now contain specialized plant and animal communities adapted to life in extreme environments. Little is known on the taxonomic diversity of Arctic floras during greenhouse periods of the Caenozoic. We show for the first time that plant richness in the globally warm Early Eocene (approx. 55-52 Myr) in the Canadian High Arctic (76° N) is comparable with that approximately 3500 km further south at mid-latitudes in the US western interior (44-47° N). Arctic Eocene pollen floras are most comparable in richness with today's forests in the southeastern United States, some 5000 km further south of the Arctic. Nearly half of the Eocene, Arctic plant taxa are endemic and the richness of pollen floras implies significant patchiness to the vegetation type and clear regional richness of angiosperms. The reduced latitudinal diversity gradient in Early Eocene North American plant species demonstrates that extreme photoperiod in the Arctic did not limit taxonomic diversity of plants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1515-1521
JournalRoyal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Issue number1733
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2011


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