MAPS: Greening the Past

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Science  27 Apr 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5517, pp. 607
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5517.607b

A few years ago, Jonathan Adams ran into a roadblock when he started a Ph.D. project figuring out how much carbon was absorbed by Ice Age ecosystems: There were no maps showing global vegetation ranges 20,000 years ago. To fill in the blanks—created by scientists reluctant to pool their data—he boldly began combing the literature and consulting colleagues about fossil plants and soils. The result is his 150,000-year Quaternary vegetation atlas. The well-trafficked site offers some interesting insights. During the last glaciation around 20,000 years ago, for instance, the central African, Asian, and Amazon rainforests all shrank.

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