Reconstructing paleoclimate and paleoecology using fossil leaves

Daniel J. Peppe, Aly Baumgartner, Andrew Flynn, Benjamin Blonder

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

44 Scopus citations


Plants are strongly influenced by their surrounding environment, which makes them reliable indicators of climate and ecology. The relationship between climate, ecology, plant traits and the geographic distribution of plants based on their climatic tolerances have been used to develop plant-based proxies for reconstructing paleoclimate and paleoecology. These proxies are some of the most accurate and precise methods for reconstructing the climate and ecology of ancient terrestrial ecosystems and have been applied from the Cretaceous to the Quaternary. Despite their utility, the relationships between plant traits and climate that underlie these methods are confounded by other factors such as leaf life-span and phylogenetic history. Work focused on better understanding these confounding factors, incorporating the influence of phylogeny and leaf economic spectrum traits into proxies, expanding modern leaf trait-climate and ecology calibration datasets to additional biogeographic areas and climate regimes, and developing automated computer algorithms for measuring leaf traits are important growing research areas that will help considerably improve plant-based paleoclimate and paleoecological proxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationVertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
Number of pages29
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameVertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
ISSN (Print)1877-9077


  • Digital leaf physiognomy
  • Leaf area analysis
  • Leaf economic spectrum
  • Leaf margin analysis
  • Leaf mass per area
  • Leaf physiognomy
  • Leaf vein density
  • Nearest living relative
  • Paleobotany

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Palaeontology


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