News of the WeekPALEOECOLOGY

How Grasses Got the Upper Hand

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Science  31 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5535, pp. 1572-1573
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5535.1572b

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A slow dwindling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during the past 100 million years is the common explanation for the sudden worldwide surge in the abundance of tropical and subtropical grasslands 7 million or 8 million years ago. But loose ends keep appearing. The latest, as reported on page 1647 of this issue, points to moisture, not just CO, as pivotal in the emergence of low-latitude grasslands. It also clouds the crystal ball for researchers trying to get a handle on future global change.