Paleobotanical Evidence for Near Present-Day Levels of Atmospheric CO2 During Part of the Tertiary

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Science  22 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5525, pp. 2310-2313
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5525.2310

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Understanding the link between the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) and Earth's temperature underpins much of paleoclimatology and our predictions of future global warming. Here, we use the inverse relationship between leaf stomatal indices and the partial pressure of CO2 in modern Ginkgo bilobaand Metasequoia glyptostroboides to develop a CO2 reconstruction based on fossil Ginkgo andMetasequoia cuticles for the middle Paleocene to early Eocene and middle Miocene. Our reconstruction indicates that CO2 remained between 300 and 450 parts per million by volume for these intervals with the exception of a single high estimate near the Paleocene/Eocene boundary. These results suggest that factors in addition to CO2 are required to explain these past intervals of global warmth.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: dana.royer{at}

  • Address as of 1 August 2001 will be Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.

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