Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

The Invasion of the Land by Plants in the Devonian Caused Climate Change

Plants first moved on the land during the Middle Palaeozoic, their spreading and diversification being compared to the burst of evolution that occurred during the Cambrian Explosion among marine animals, as life had not expanded onto the land by the Cambrian, in terms of both intensity and impact on the diversification of life on Earth. In this study the authors1 used a coupled climate/carbon/vegetation model in the investigation of the biophysical impacts of plant colonisation on the surface climate resulting from changes in continental albedo, roughness, thermal properties, and potential evaporation. Previous studies have focused on the contribution of the evolving root system of plants to weathering. According to the authors1 changes brought about by a combination of continental drift and climatic changes that resulted from the first appearance of land plants explain this trend. They also say that the simulated drawdown is, paradoxically, associated with temperatures that are unchanged. In this paper the aurhors1 show that the cooling that resulted from CO2 drawdown was countered by a large warming that resulted from the reduced surface albedo that was caused by the expansion of an extended plant cover. If CO2 is assumed to be the main driver of Phanerozoic climate, it is demonstrated by this study that the modifications of soil properties, that occurred during the invasion of the land by plants, could have played a role in the opposite decreasing to that of the falling CO2 levels, thereby maintaining warm temperatures throughout most of the Devonian.

Sources and further reading

  1. Le Hir, Guillaume, Yannick Donnadieu, Yves Goddéris, Brigitte Meyer-Berthaud, Gilles Ramstein, and Ronald C. Blakey. "The Climate Change Caused by the Land Plant Invasion in the Devonian." Earth and Planetary Science Letters 310, no. 3–4 (10/15/ 2011): 203-12.
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 16/02/2014
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