Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New plant finds in andes foretell of ancient climate change

15.09.2005


For the third time in as many years, glaciologist Lonnie Thompson has returned from an Andean ice field in Peru with samples from beds of ancient plants exposed for the first time in perhaps as much as 6,500 years.



In 2002, he first stumbled across some non-fossilized plants exposed by the steadily retreating Quelccaya ice cap. Carbon dating showed that plant material was at least 5,000 years old.

Then in 2004, Thompson found additional plant beds revealed by the continued retreat of the melting ice and when tested, these proved to be carbon-free, suggesting that they might date back more than 50,000 years. If true, that would suggest that the climate in that region may not have been as warm as it is today in more than 500 centuries.


In June, he went back to the ice field and found at least 20 new plant collection sites that had been newly exposed. An analysis of the plant material from these sites suggested that it ranged from 4,500 to 6,500 years old.

Some of these sites contained thick, multiple layers of plant material and soil which might provide a chronology of when in the past this now high, cold, ice-covered locale harbored flourishing wetland bogs, an ecosystem requiring much warmer temperatures.

Thompson, a professor of geological sciences and researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State , calls that ice cap the "Rosetta Stone" for climate change.

"Quelccaya is the biggest tropical ice cap on earth and is probably the best-documented as far as its response to recent climate change," he said. "And the retreat of the Qori Kalis glacier that spills off Quelccaya is perhaps the best-studied retreat of any tropical glacier."

He should know. He’s led 22 expeditions to this forbidding region since 1974, drilling cores through the ice cap that have yielded a detailed climate history of the region. Frozen areas once surrounding Quelccaya now harbor massive meltwater lakes hundreds of feet deep.

This time, Thompson brought with him two botanists to help identify new deposits. Blanca Leon, a research fellow from the Herbarium, Plant Resources Center , and her colleague Kenneth Young, an associate professor of geography, both at the University of Texas at Austin , had identified the plant species in samples from Thompson’s earlier expedition.

The plants proved to be alpaca moss, Distichia muscoides, a hardy species that still inhabits the region. The researchers also identified at least two additional species of moss and grasses that were recently uncovered by the ice. The 20 plant samples were sent to both Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for carbon dating.

Having the botanists along allowed the researchers to confirm that the plants had not been moved by the ice, that they actually once grew where they were found. "It was important that we confirmed that these were original plants on those sites."

Thompson said that the retreating ice was exposing sizeable areas covered by these old plants. "They are perfectly preserved," he said. "We could have collected a boxcar full of them."

The plant discoveries are very significant, Thompson says, not so much because of what the plants are but the fact that so many are being exposed.

Early next year, he plans to return to Tanzania ’s Mount Kilimanjaro . In 2001, he predicted that the massive ice field atop that extinct volcano might disappear within 15 years because of rising temperatures. This time, he intends to look for similar plant deposits that might be exposed as the ice retreats. And when he returns to Peru ’s Quelccaya ice field next year, he wants to sample more of the exposed beds whose carbon dates suggest are far older than 5,000 years.

"This story could only have been told by having spent 28 years collecting ice cores from around the world, extracting the climate records from them, seeing the global trends emerge and having the opportunity to be there now as the ice released its treasures," Thompson said.

Lonnie Thompson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

NIST puts the optical microscope under the microscope to achieve atomic accuracy

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>