Late Pliocene–Pleistocene expansion of C4 vegetation in semiarid East Asia linked to increased burning

Zhou, Bin, Shen, Chengde, Sun, Weidong, Bird, Michael, Ma, Wentao, Taylor, David, Liu, Weiguo, Peterse, Francien, Yi, Weixi, and Zheng, Hongbo (2014) Late Pliocene–Pleistocene expansion of C4 vegetation in semiarid East Asia linked to increased burning. Geology, 42 (12). pp. 1067-1070.

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Abstract

Plants using the C4 photosynthetic pathway, commonly tropical and subtropical grasses, increased in abundance in East Asia during the late Cenozoic. Determining the exact timing and likely factors leading to this major vegetation change requires region-specific studies. Here variations in pyrogenic carbon mass accumulation rate (PyC-MAR) and isotope composition (δ^13C(PyC)) from an ~7-m.y.-long depositional sequence from the central Loess Plateau, China, suggest increased biomass burning and an increased contribution to combusted material from C4 taxa from 2.6 Ma. Changes in the composition of PyC after 0.6 Ma likely reflect the effects of lower temperatures, particularly during glacial periods, and changes in seasonality of precipitation. Increased PyC-MAR without concomitant changes in δ^13C(PyC) at ca. 0.15 Ma appears to indicate a decoupling of feedbacks between changes in climate, fire regime, and vegetation, and may mark the onset of anthropogenic burning in the region. These new data suggest that C4 taxa were present on the Loess Plateau from at least the late Miocene, rising to prominence at ca. 2.6 Ma following changes in climate and, critically, an increase in biomass fires.

Item ID: 38020
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1943-2682
Keywords: black carbon, biomas burning, C4 photosynthesis, stable isotope
Funders: Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), State Scholarship Fund of China Scholarship Council (SSFC-SC)
Projects and Grants: NSFC grant no. 41172749, NSFC grant no. 41321062, CAS grant no. SKLLQG1210, SSFC-SC 2011832365
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2015 23:45
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040203 Isotope Geochemistry @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040606 Quaternary Environments @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 100%
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