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  • 1
    Publication Date: 2016-03-27
    Description: The spread of C 4 grasses in the late Neogene is one of the most important ecological transitions of the Cenozoic, but the primary driver of this global expansion is widely debated. We use the stable carbon isotopic composition ( 13 C) of bison and mammoth tissues as a proxy for the relative abundance of C 3 and C 4 vegetation in their grazing habitat to determine climatic and atmospheric CO 2 controls on C 4 grass distributions from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the present. We predict the spatial variability of grass 13 C in North America using a mean of three different methods of classification and regression tree (CART) machine learning techniques and nine climatic variables. We show that growing season precipitation and temperature are the strongest predictors of all single climate variables. We apply this CART analysis to high-resolution gridded climate data and Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) mean paleoclimate model outputs to produce predictive isotope landscape models ("isoscapes") for the current, mid-Holocene, and LGM average 13 C of grass-dominated areas across North America. From the LGM to the present, C 4 grass abundances substantially increased in the Great Plains despite concurrent increases in atmospheric CO 2 . These results suggest that changes in growing season precipitation rather than atmospheric CO 2 were critically important in the Neogene expansion of C 4 grasses.
    Electronic ISSN: 2375-2548
    Topics: Natural Sciences in General
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