Miocene Climatic Optimum fungal record and plant-based CREST climatic reconstruction from southern McMurdo Sound, Antarctica

Mallory Pilie, Martha E. Gibson, Ingrid C. Romero, Noelia B. Nuñez Otaño, Matthew J. Pound, Jennifer M. K. O'keefe*, Sophie Warny*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Deep-time palynological studies are necessary to evaluate plant and fungal distribution under warmer-than-present scenarios such as those of the Middle Miocene. Previous palynological studies from southern McMurdo Sound, Antarctica (SMS), have provided unique documentation for Neogene environments in the Ross Sea region during a time of pronounced global warming. The present study builds on these studies and provides a new climate reconstruction using the previously published SMS pollen and plant spore data. Additionally, 44 SMS samples were reanalyzed with a focus on the fungal fraction of the section to evaluate the fungal distribution under warmer than present conditions. The probability-based climate reconstruction technique (CREST) was applied to provide a new plant-based representation of regional paleoclimate for this Miocene Climatic Optimum (MCO) locality. CREST reconstructs a paleoclimate that is warmer and significantly wetter than present in SMS during the MCO, with mean annual precipitation reconstructed at 1147 mm yr−1 (95 % confidence range: 238–2611 mm yr−1) and a maximum mean annual temperature of 10.3 ∘C (95 % confidence range: 2.0–20.2 ∘C) for the warmest intervals of the MCO. The CREST reconstruction fits within the Cfb Köppen–Geiger climate class during the MCO of SMS. This new reconstruction agrees with previous reconstructions using various geochemical proxies. The fungal palynological analyses yielded surprising results, with only a single morphotype recovered, in low abundance, with concentrations ranging up to 199 fungi per gram of dried sediment. The taxa present belongs to the Apiosporaceae family and are known to be adapted to a wide range of climate and environmental conditions. As fungi are depauperate members of the SMS MCO palynofloras and because the one morphotype recovered is cosmopolitan, using the fungi record to confirm a narrow Köppen–Geiger climate class is impossible. Overall, the study demonstrates refinement of plant-based paleoclimatic reconstructions and sheds light on the limited presence of fungi during the MCO in Antarctica.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-307
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Micropalaeontology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2023

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