Climate change as the dominant control on glacial-interglacial variations in C3 and C4 plant abundance

Y. Huang, F. A. Street-Perrott, S. E. Metcalfe, M. Brenner, M. Moreland, Katherine Haines Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

295 Scopus citations


Although C4 plant expansions have been recognized in the late Miocene, identification of the underlying causes is complicated by the uncertainties associated with estimates of ancient precipitation, temperature, and partial pressure of atmospheric carbon dioxide (PCO2). Here we report the carbon isotopic compositions of leaf wax n-alkanes in lake sediment cores from two sites in Mesoamerica that have experienced contrasting moisture variations since the last glacial maximum. Opposite isotopic trends obtained from these two sites indicate that regional climate exerts a strong control on the relative abundance of C3 and C4 plants and that in the absence of favorable moisture and temperature conditions, low PCO2 alone is insufficient to drive an expansion of C4 plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1647-1651
Number of pages5
Issue number5535
StatePublished - Aug 31 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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