BALBOA, Panama, Nov. 11 (UPI) — An abrupt global warming episode 56 million years ago led to an explosion of plant diversity in northern South America, Panamanian researchers say.
A 9-degree Fahrenheit spike in temperatures during 10,000 years — a blink of an eye on a geological scale — had researchers expecting to find evidence of a mass die-off of many tropical plant species, ScienceNews.org reported.
“We were expecting to find rapid extinction, a total change in the forest,” says study leader Carlos Jaramillo, a biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Balboa, Panama. “What we found was just the opposite — a very fast addition of many new species, and a huge spike in the diversity of tropical plants.”
The study has resonance for today in raising new questions about how tropical rain forests might respond to global warming as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise because of fossil fuel burning and other industrial activities, researchers say.
Now gardeners know why they grow plants in greenhouses. Climate science is breaking some new ground here.