From: Adele Rackley, Planet Earth Online
Published February 28, 2012 08:46 AM

Dinosaur forests mapped

The first detailed maps of the Earth's forests at the time of the dinosaurs have been drawn up. The patterns of vegetation, together with information about the rate of tree growth, support the idea that the Earth was stifling hot 100 million years ago.


High temperatures and possibly more atmospheric carbon dioxide caused forests to extend much closer to the poles and grow almost twice as fast as they do today.

The findings have implications for understanding the long-term effects of global warming.

Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, plotted the maps after creating a database of more than two thousand fossilised forest sites from the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs were at their peak.

'Our research shows that weird monkey puzzle forests covered most of the planet, especially in the steamy tropics. At mid-latitudes there were dry cypress woodlands, and near the North Pole it was mostly pines,' said Emiliano Peralta-Medina, who led the study.

At that time the humid tropics extended over a wider area than now, and temperate climates – like the UK's – reached much closer to the poles, which had more tree cover than ice.

It seems though, that just before the dinosaurs went extinct the forests changed as angiosperms – flowering plants – made an appearance.

'Flowering trees similar to present-day magnolias took off, bringing colour and scent to the world for the first time,' says Peralta-Medina.

The angiosperms gradually took over habitats previously dominated by the conifers, until by the end of the Cretaceous they are the most common tree species.

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